Christmas is just a few days away and, for me and others, it will again be one of limited finances. Sure, I started a full-time job this year. But the salary isn’t even close to what I used to make. Still, I’m grateful for the permanency of it, as well as the benefits that I didn’t have when I worked part time as a school bus driver.

I was sitting around with a friend the other day, and she was lamenting that she has too many nieces, nephews and great and great-great nieces and nephews to give them all a gift for Christmas. They’re mostly her sister’s family and on top of everything, her sister passed this year.

As I nodded my head in agreement, I offered her advice as to what I was going to do for my son in lieu of a major gift. I don’t have the money to give him what I know he really wants and needs. But rather than having nothing under the tree, I’m going to bake him several batches of cookies. I had made a batch of oatmeal-raisin cookies for her for her birthday and after filling up the tin, had left the remaining cookies for my son. He poured himself a huge glass of milk and proceeded to devour them.

I smiled as I watched the pure joy it brought him to eat something that not only tasted good but was something I had made. Sometimes in this fast-paced world we live in, we forget the simple things that can mean so much more. A gift of homemade cookies, cakes or pies will be more memorable than a video game. The thoughtfulness of giving one’s time to help someone accomplish a task or to offer free child care to an overwhelmed single mother can mean so much.

My friend agreed with me. She is going to go to the Dollar Store and purchase a variety of tins. Then she is going into her kitchen to bake cookies for all of the small children in her family. With about 20 children under the age of 12, those cookies will probably be the best gift they get on Christmas Day because their Auntie made them. Plus they were made with love so that they will have something special when they come to her house. In fact, that’s a tradition all families should consider beginning — a tradition that no matter what presents may be under the tree, one gift must be something that you make or do for the other person.

In doing this, the spirit of Christmas can remain alive. Sure it’s nice to get expensive store-bought gifts, but a gift you make requires time and effort. It means you cared enough to do something for somebody else. It means that money and the cost of something should not define Christmas Day. It also means we can practice putting Christ back in Christmas as opposed to just speaking the words but not actually doing it.

Merry Christmas!