Thinking is hard… So is counting


So what will we do with: “It’s the thought that counts?”

People who measure such things – if such things really can be measured – say that nearly 20% of all Christmas gifts are never even worn, used or displayed.

From personal experience, however, I strongly suspect that is untrue for gifts that can be eaten. You and I will probably eat almost anything at Christmastime. The same is true for gift cards, especially for restaurants. And then we spend most of January lamenting all the poundage we piled on.

So, from examples like that, what kind of thinking goes into the gifting? Actually, I think it is all prompted by good feelings.

And that’s what Christmas is all about. Good feelings for one another, for charity and kindness and the warmth of good fellowship among kin and neighbor alike.

Actually, at Christmastime there really are very few Ebenezer Scrooges or Seuss’s Grinches on the loose. A few people are a little put off by all the “Merry Christmassing” and commercialization, but it’s not hard to see they probably only have indigestion. They just don’t have the feeling.

Or do they have a point?

What if it really is the thought that counts, not the feeling? The problem is that feeling and thinking are two very different things. In fact, they sometimes fight each other.

If Christmas historically commemorates the birth of Christ, it may be reasonable at this time of year to consider a few of his thoughts. Here’s one that gives us a ring-side seat at the age-old battle: thinking vs feeling.

Everybody has been hurt by somebody, and the feeling that always grows up like a weed in your flower garden is anger and hatred. That’s easy, it’s natural and altogether predictable.

So here’s where it gets tough. Jesus is quoted as once saying: “But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

It feels bad, but I think it is right. It’s really quite simple. Don’t catch anger. It is a disease like a cold and it makes you sick. Once you’re well, heal someone else. See how much more practical it can be to respond from thinking rather than feeling?

So, what about Christmas? If you care enough about someone to buy him or her a gift, maybe it is the thought that counts.

A gift of something needed… will be used. A gift that makes somebody’s life better… will not be forgotten. On the other hand, something luxurious, fancy, stylishly expensive or faddishly popular might merely feel good to give and to receive. That’s not bad, just cheap.

A Christmas gift of you, your love, your friendship or comfort, or maybe a service you can give – something that shows a deeper thought – might be the best kind of gift.

Even the Grinch finally discovered, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store.” And Scrooge said with a brand new smile, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

There is, however, a problem with such a personal gift. It might cost no money, but it can be the most expensive gift of all. You actually have to mean it and do it. Such a gift is a commitment. Feel good gifts are far less expensive.

It is, after all, the thought that counts at Christmas.

Merry Christmas. Enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.