Mimiloshen: Beyond the Bows

Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld

’Tis the season that centers on gifts. No doubt about it, gift giving churns our economy and society during the last months of the year. But there is another way to show love and appreciation during the holidays that’s worth considering: nonmaterial gifts. Gifts of the heart. Gifts of the spirit. Gifts of our hands and time. Gifts of our help.

Some years ago, I wrote about a dear friend who was the princess of the Shinnecock Indian Nation in New York. She shared the tradition of her people, which was, “I give you my song.” My friend Chee Chee’s mother embroidered beads on a felt heart. She gave it to me and sang me a beautiful chant. What a heartfelt gift!

I realize these words are not going to dissuade anyone from ordering or purchasing holiday presents. But in this very materialistic culture of ours, where we are bombarded with endless arrays of THINGS—shiny and amazing and beautiful—it’s easy to forget that the most meaningful gifts we can give each other are not found in any catalog or website.

Consider: the lonely child who is included in the birthday party; the friend who listens to another; the helpful teen who mows her neighbor’s lawn when he is hospitalized; the new tenant who is welcomed to the community with a bag of groceries; the cousin who accompanies her cousin on a frightening visit to a doctor—all gifts of the heart. These gifts are good for all seasons and reasons.

When I was in rehab after an auto accident, many wonderful people gave me gifts: books, cologne, pajamas. I appreciated them very much. But the one dearest to me was from my friend Bill Cohen, who brought his guitar and sang my favorite songs.

Something to keep in mind as you are gift hunting: Many children receive the latest, most-advanced and most-advertised toys, presented in cheerfully wrapped boxes. Frequently, boys and girls pull the contents out of the packages, play with them for a while and then decide that the boxes are the best gifts of all. Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame officially acknowledged this by inducting the cardboard box into its ranks in 2005. (Think about it: That could save you a lot of money!)

Happy Holidays! Happy Every Day!

“Mamaloshen” is the Yiddish term for “the mother tongue” and we have adapted it here to represent the wisdom of Columbus arts educator, author and all-around inspiration Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld, who is on a mission to help parents raise happy, healthy, creative children.