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The Gift You Don’t Buy

This guest blog post is by Lena Rivkin. Lena is an artist and graphologist living in Los Angeles. She also has a brother on the autism spectrum. 

It’s the Holiday Season, in case you’ve been lucky enough to be hiding under a rock and haven’t yet been to Costco, where they started stocking Christmas décor and playing holiday music over Labor Day weekend.

This time of year always invites many feelings—some of them good, some of them bad and some of them useless. 

The holiday spending pressure at Costco (and many other retailers) is what I like to call useless festivity. Yet it inspires me to purposefully reinvent what holidays actually maybe it’s not so useless after all.  My revenge on the retailers’ ramming “priceless holiday sentiment” down our throats is to come up with the most creative and un-monied ways to celebrate the people I adore. My rule is if I can’t make it myself, it’s not a true gift. 

The "bad" part of the holiday season is the notion that only on sanctioned holidays is it permissible to let people know how much they mean to each other.  Hanukkah and Christmas aren’t the only days of the year to celebrate loved ones and by the time the actual holidays roll around, we’re all so exhausted and drained from trying to make these days as memorable and ‘perfect’ as possible that we don’t even enjoy the time together.  By Christmas night we’re ready to kick everyone we’ve ever met off the island!

I know exactly what makes Phillip, my brother with autism happy, and that is the best gift--for both of us. We collaborate on needlepoints that I design and Phillip stitches, we bake cupcakes together, and whenever we go on any spontaneous or planned outings it’s great fun. Being together and creating together is a gift that doesn’t need a payment plan.


The end of the year (and the holiday season) is a perfect time to review the past year’s highlights. And if I had to come up with a one-word summation of 2014, it would be gratitude.  I am keenly grateful for my life, my friends, my family, my brother and all the people he has brought into my life.

May everyone be lucky enough this holiday season to remember to breathe, enjoy the people you love, feel gratitude for what you have and remember that the most important things in life aren’t things at all. 

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.