The best gift of all

This Christmas, I am working harder on holiday gifts than ever. This year, I’ve decided not to buy them.¬†This year, I am writing letters, notes of admiration, realization and reflection, for my dearest friends.

The decision really made itself. I just returned from a trip to Dakar, and just didn’t have time to spend in stores trying to decide which thing that my friends already own I should try to replace. I imagined strolling down aisles and through department stores and the very idea gave me a headache.

Which one could use another sweater? Which one might like another pair of earrings that are more my taste than theirs? How many more ties can I buy?

Nope, this time, this year, I am using the gift God gave me to create a unique gift for each of them: notes of encouragement and gratitude, words to let them know how I feel about them, how much I appreciate them being in my life.¬† If they take them in the right spirit, they won’t think I’m dying and saying goodbye, but will understand how much I love them.

I made three exceptions: my friend, Shelley, who is among the smartest, funniest and most practical people I know. I got her a picture frame. She’s already decided what to put in it. my friend, Phyllis. I had decided before I left that I wanted her to have something tangible that she could show off; and daughter, sister, brother, aunt and cousin, who comprise my nuclear family, the core that is left back in North Carolina. I knew before the plane took off for Senegal that I would bring them something back from there.

Everyone else gets the best of what’s inside of me, what I think of them and feel about them.

I hope they appreciate the words as much as I appreciate them.