Thursday, December 04, 2003

Fact: In this world there are "list" people and there are "non-list" people. List people are organized. List people are neat. List people can articulate their activities -- past, present and future. List people proudly point to long horizontal lines across text, each of which indicates a victory. List people buy Day Runners and continually monitor their list as it changes from caterpillar to butterfly.

I am none of those things. For better or for worse, I am a non-list person. There are days I aspire to be a list person, and days I even pretend to be a list person. But realistically speaking, those days are few and far between, and the effects are only temporary. I think it must not be in my genetic makeup. As a result, I am sorry to say, I tend to be unorganized. I write things down on tiny scraps of paper and then can't find them. If I really want to remember something, I email myself. But that isn't really a list -- it's a "hey dummy" note.

And now, it is the gift-giving season. And with this season comes the request for a list. And here I am, once again, a list failure.

But this time it's different. And please don't misunderstand me. If you are a list person, there are days I envy you. If you can manage to produce an itemized narrative of special things you'd like each holiday season, that's great. You make the gift-giving easier. Most likely, you'll get exactly what you ask for, and I don't think this is a bad thing.

But I'm list deficient. I have an unbelievably difficult time coming up with a gift list. And it's not because I don't want things. Heck, I'm just as materialistic as the next Tuna. I like things. I love things. But when I make a present list for myself, I feel uncomfortable. I feel like it's a gimme list -- even if other people specifically ask me, beg me, or fruitcake threaten me for it. So I resist doling out a list, and people get frustrated with me.

Even when I do manage to come up with a list, it's lame. Why? Because I don't want to ask for things that I would have to go out and buy anyway. Socks and underwear? These will never appear on my list. I hate to list the mundane. It doesn't seem like a present. I want to ask for things that I'd really like, but might not buy for myself because I'm spending my money on socks and underwear. So, I need to make a list of the interesting and unusual. But what happens? I can't think of a single thing. I'm a list failure again, and I'm back on the family fruitcake hit list.

I have this idealized notion of gift giving, and I admit it -- I am working on indoctrinating TinyTuna (because I can). When it is gift giving time, we sit down together and think of all the things that person likes. Books, movies, clothes, toys, trinkets...Whatever we can think of. And then we go out and look for that something that will seem to pop out and say "this is it." It can be time consuming. It isn't always easy. But to me, it is satisfying.

One of my favorite sermons I heard on a Christmas Eve several years ago. To paraphrase, it was the story of a young woman in the Peace Corps who was working in a distant country. It was Christmas time and she was very lonely and found herself missing her family. She told the children she taught all about Christmas and her family traditions. On Christmas morning a young child gave her a large seashell. She didn't know what to say. The shell was beautiful, but the gift -- it was too much. The ocean was a considerable distance from the village and would have taken the better part of a day to travel on foot. It was a long distance for an adult -- not to mention a child. The child looked at the woman and told her simply, "but the journey was part of the present."

That says it all for me. It's not the present, it's the journey. Maybe instead of a list, I can make a map. It wouldn't be detailed, but it might be enough to point people in the right direction. I hope this will be ok -- or at least good enough so I won't get the Fruitcake of wrath.
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