The magic of gift giving

By Ritika Khanal, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Hello there, MTHS. Welcome back to my little corner, where I ramble about one thing or another every month.

Before I go any further, I want to wish each and every single one of our readers the happiest of holidays. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, a random national holiday (apparently there are a lot of random ones like National Lemon Cupcake Day in the month of December) or something else entirely, I hope everyone has the chance to recharge and enjoy time with friends and family.

Although it’s a season full of cheer, I also know that holidays can be a tricky time to navigate for some. So, let’s all remember to take some time to show kindness to those around us and continue the spirit of giving back. After all, the little acts of kindness can have the biggest impacts, and we each have the power to brighten someone else’s day.

As a little kid, I always thought of December as the month in which everyone magically received gifts. In every book I read that mentioned a December holiday, the main character would wake up, spend time with their family, play dreidel and above all, they would receive gifts.

Having grown up around Nepali culture, I had never experienced what I was reading about, but as I began going to school, my peers had the same excitement that the characters in my books did.

At first, I couldn’t quite understand why the month was so heavy on gifts. It wasn’t until I began being able to give things myself that I finally understood.

Being able to give back to the people in my life, whether it’s showing those who mean the most to me how much I appreciate them or reaching out to someone who is in need of a little bit of cheer is an indescribable feeling. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that these holidays are not so much about receiving the gifts, but giving back to people in one way or another.

“You could give me a rock and I’d treasure it forever,” a friend once told me.

That comment has stuck with me, because I’ve always believed that the time and thought we put into the relationships with those around us means a lot more than receiving material objects. Maybe it’s because I can be an overly-sentimental person, but this comment also reminded me of my own experiences.

As a little kid, I despised stuffed animals, barbies or anything that was deemed “age appropriate.” I wanted to read books well beyond my league and watch Jeopardy over and over again until I could recite random facts to anyone I met or talked to.

Yet, despite my obstinate refusal to play with stuffed animals, I somehow acquired dozens of them. They lined up my little room, and each night, I would knock them off my bed and make what I can only assume was a disgusted face.

I don’t exactly know why I despised them so much, but all I know is that I did. If my life were in the world of the Toy Story movies, I’d probably be crushed into a pulp by all of them for neglecting them so thoroughly. Each time a new one would come into my life, the game would be the same. “Guess what this is?” someone would ask.

Forcing myself to smile, I’d go through the motions of feeling the animal and making a halfhearted guess at what I thought it was to appease whoever was asking. The problem? Each one of them had two beady eyes, lots of soft fuzz and if I was lucky, one might be slightly different from the others by having a beanbag interior.

Eventually, I learned to feel for long necks for a giraffe or two legs for a bear, but without the visual cues, they all felt the same to me.

Now, fast forward to high school. It was December of 2019, and one of my friends walked up to me with a bag and said, “For you.”

I was instantly suspicious, surprised and flattered all at the same time. For me? What?

When I opened up the bag, a soft, somewhat round, fat and squishy object fell into my hand. Perplexed, I began giving it my invasive tactile once-over, poking it in the eyes and squeezing it between my hands. It was a stuffed animal.

Fully expecting the uncomfortable forced smile to appear, I began going through the list of possibilities of what it could be in my head. To my surprise, the forced smile never appeared.

At that moment, I wasn’t thinking about what I was holding at all. I was thinking about how much it meant to me that my friend thought of me and decided to get me something they thought I might like.

To this day, that cat goes with me wherever I go and is one of the most meaningful possessions I have.

As if on cue, I came home a few weeks later to find another stuffed animal on my bed.

“Some soft thing was sent to you in the mail,” my dad told me.

It was a hippo, and my friend had taken the time to send it all the way from Indiana with a little note. Suddenly, I had a cat and a hippo, and I love both equally.

More than the animals themselves, I appreciated the thought my friends had put into them, and both animals are representatives of the friendships I have with those around me.

So, this holiday season, remember the value of friendships, enjoy the moments and have a fantastic winter break.

The Hawkeye will not release an issue during the month of January, but please be sure to visit www.thehawkeye.org to keep up with what is going on at MTHS. Be sure to submit story ideas to us through the website too. We always want to hear from you.