As I start walking toward my celebration of Christmas in the season of Advent, the battle against consumerism begins in my head.  At the same time, I pause to reflect on the work that we were given over the year.  In appreciation for the work, I throw a little of that caution to the wind and start assembling our holiday packages. This year is no exception, although it will be a change from years past. As we scale back a bit, we continue to add our creativity to the package.

Our clients also struggle with preparing the right gifts for their clients.  Everyone wants to give something people will enjoy, yet doesn’t inspire thoughts of spending “too much” in a climate of economic woes.  From local artwork to custom branded gifts, our gift theme this year includes ways to engage with clients beyond opening the gift —through pictures and social media.  Sharing our lives helps us realize our common ground. It helps us strive together to create better sustainability, better relationships and better communities.

To my clients who cannot afford lavish gifts, I suggest cards.  Cards from UNICEF or World Wildlife Fund are my favorites. Not only are they beautiful, but they also include a charitable aspect.  A one-line note in a card means so much to me as I know the effort it takes to write each one — and so do all the HMA team members.  Writing cards means an afternoon spent around the conference table together. As a group, we think about each recipient and include a personal note.

I never know the protocol on making charitable donations in someone else’s name. I see the importance of charitable donations. We probably all have enough, but I never feel comfortable giving a donation as a client gift.

To balance our need to give a tangible gift and still focus on charity, the HMA team reflects on their charitable work during the year. In addition, we ramp up both our individual and corporate giving.  Our team will be serving meals to the homeless and making Christmas happen for those less fortunate.

Speaking of the HMA team, I love the preparation of surprises and our holiday dinner. Our Secret Santa gift exchange, decorations, the books I choose for each HMAer — each activity gives me moments to pause and think about the connections we made this year.  After my momentary temper tantrum about the government spending limit on employee gifts, I remember how to craft and work hard to add a personal touch on each gift.  Hopefully, they think it is better than a turkey, ham or gift card.

Gifts should be given freely with a personal “gift” touch. In this season especially, we all have the gift of creativity to share. Whatever your gifts and with whomever you choose to share them, we hope the preparation for the season is more about treasured connections than frantic shopping.