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TWENTY SOMETHING | The art of giving, the challenge of Advent

Oprah Winfrey sang and clapped when presented with the $69 lunch box that made her 2017 "Favorite Things" list.

"I looooove!" she belted out in mock falsetto.

She didn't need to finish her sentence by naming the object of her love. The list of items is expansive; in a video of the selection process for her biggest gift guide, it covers 102 items, totaling $13,400 in value and ranging from a $2,000 55-inch Samsung high-definition TV down to a $10 earbud case.

"People spend the best years of their lives either trying to untangle their charger cords or track down missing earbuds," Oprah quipped in the December issue of her magazine, O, which pictures her favorite things.

They include a $600 espresso maker, a $200 bird house, a $200 automated dog bone and a $250 "lip vault" by Ulta containing 25 tubes of "lip mousse." There's plenty of warm-fuzzy and/or frivolous items, like $50 blueberries.

It seems every so-called "influencer" now curates a gift guide. Online shoppers often take the expert's word, making transactions that require a nanosecond of engagement.

And so goes the drumbeat of commercialism: more, more, more.

All the while, we Christians are called to answer Advent's hushed invitation for less, less, less. To clear out our closets and turn off our phones, to resist the click-and-procure in favor of the wait-and-wonder. What a challenge it is to make space for the other, for the Divine. Filling things sets off our bells and whistles; emptying requires discernment and allows for quiet.

Americans prefer the former. We have so much self-storage space, the Self Storage Association once pointed out, it's physically possible that every American could stand at the same time under the canopy of self-storage roofing.

I've been reflecting on the art of gift giving — what it can do for us, at its best, and what it neglects to do at its hastiest. The more you put in, the more you get out.

My neighbor recently showed me her favorite Christmas picture book, Holly Hobbie's 2007 charmer "Toot & Puddle: Let It Snow," in which a pair of best friends — who happen to be pigs — struggle to determine the perfect gifts for each other. Puddle labors in his attic, painting an image of the twosome in the woods. Toot, meanwhile, spends "every spare minute in his workshop in the basement" building a sled on wheels — one that will work with or without snow.

"He knew that the best present was usually something you made yourself, a one-of-a-kind thingamajig, not just a whatsit anyone could buy in a store," Hobbie writes.

Indeed, the sweetest gifts require a commodity more precious than treasure: time. That's the gift my mom extends to me every day with her availability and assistance, delighting in the giving, expecting nothing in return. Time is the resource we try to circumvent with apps and outsourcing, but it can never be replicated.

If you want Advent to remake your heart, you must make the time for real giving, for glitter and glue and hours and minutes. Leave the lip vault to Oprah.

Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. 

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TWENTY SOMETHING The art of giving the challenge of Advent 1398

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