MOST Christmas traditions have evolved over the years. One that has stood out is gift-giving. The giving of Christmas presents dates back to the 4th century, to the time of St. Nicholas. Today, we still exchange Christmas gifts to show that we care about one another.

Rosemarie Embile

Rosemarie Embile

But giving a Christmas present is beyond materials things. For me, and the rest of the world, you are the greatest gift.

You are a gift when you smile. A smile is the simplest yet most meaningful gift that you can give to others. When you smile, others will see and appreciate your good mood without spending any money. Your smile is one of the best yet most valuable gifts you can give to your family, friends, and even to yourself. Smiling has benefits that transcend the simple act of adding brightness to your face. There are real health benefits related to producing a smile, even when you are not happy. The act of smiling can alleviate stress, even when the person is not smiling voluntarily. A 2012 study at the University of Kansas demonstrated that individuals who were instructed to hold chopsticks in certain ways with their mouths to mimic a smile showed a reduction in the heart rate and faster recovery from stressful situations.

People who always smile are happier and better adjusted to life's challenges. A smile is also very contagious.

You are a gift when you serve other people. People are social creatures. Therefore, we do best if we get a chance to be part of something larger than ourselves. If most people see themselves and their jobs as contributing to the community's good, then they would realize that there is no big or small jobs, and that each of us serves our unique purpose on Earth.

Think of front-liners who serve during these unprecedented times. They have given us the greatest gift of service,  but even a simple act of kindness can help us make little changes for the better.

You are a gift by simply being who you are. You are beautiful and unique and have so much to offer to the world. What you are is the greatest gift that you can give to yourself and to others. We all feel “lost” sometimes as we go through significant challenges. But through these challenges, we often find new layers of our character.

The difficulties  we face are part of growing and learning which can also serve as a guide to others. So, be yourself, nothing more, nothing less.

You are a gift when you love. In the Christian faith, love is the greatest gift from our Creator. Based on the Bible, there are nine components of love: patience, kindness, humility, generosity, courtesy, unselfishness, good temper, guilelessness, and sincerity. We are called to love one another. When we do things out of love, we can never go wrong.

We learned from the life of Jesus that He accepted and loved people, especially the poor, the outcast, lepers, children and even tax collectors.

Jesus remains the perfect model of loving your neighbor as yourself. He is the reason we celebrate Christmas, which is the greatest gift of all.

Always remember that every single thing we do makes a difference and can serve as a gift to others, to ourselves and to our Creator.

The author is a teacher at Northern Marianas International School.

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