“What do you want for Christmas?” is a frequently asked question during the Christmas season.

The typical response by adults is, “I don’t know.” The result is that the questioner wanders through the mall looking ad infinitum at every gift idea imaginable. Usually by Christmas Eve (the most economical time to shop) we find something for our loved ones.

This adventure into torture originates in the caldron of affluency. By every standard in the world, we are a rich people. We have more than we know what to do with. We truly don’t know what we want because there is very little we don’t have. OK, I am not trying to be the grinch or a killjoy. It is enjoyable to buy presents for those we love. But it becomes harder and harder because we already have so much.

After a recent trip to the mall, I started thinking about a type of gift that would not be measured by its price tag but by the positive impact in people’s lives. These gifts would cost the giver quality time instead of money. I have some suggestions that just might make you the favorite gift giver at Christmas.

My daughter gave her mother a packet of gift coupons a few years ago. They were serving coupons, not coupons for a store or restaurant. These were for cooking the evening meal, cleaning up after a meal, doing the laundry and house cleaning. Coupons you might create could include time spent together doing special things that the receiver enjoys. Use your own imagination, but these gifts center on giving yourself away, rather than money.

Another idea is the gift of encouragement. Take time to sit down, think carefully, and then write a letter or poem that seeks to encourage the recipient. Consider noting the person’s character qualities that are so enjoyable. Or point to the strengths you see in that person’s life. I do not know anyone who could not benefit from a bountiful page full of encouraging words.

A similar gift would be the gift of a blessing. This gift is seen in the Old Testament as fathers would lay hands on their children and speak words of blessing over them. This can be done verbally or in writing. It is a prayer to which you devote much prayer and thought before speaking. It seeks to identify the hand of God upon the person for the days ahead. God will give you wisdom as you pray and prepare to speak or write these words of blessing. Blessings will cost you more than money. They will cost you the time it takes to think and to seek the face of the Lord-but, oh, how powerful they can be!

I have also thought how wonderful it would be to take time at the Christmas meal table for each person to share why their family means so much to them. Open expressions of love and appreciation strengthen the ties that bind us as families. Without question, such words of thanksgiving and love are needed in today’s world.

Another possible gift is a family project that focuses on others. I am not talking about something to be done at the Christmas season when all are feeling charitable. Rather, I would suggest a project of service to the church, the needy, a school or organization that would require your family to give several hours helping others. Potential recipients of these gifts of kindness and love are everywhere to be discovered.

The most priceless gifts cannot be purchased at the store. They come from the hearts and hands of those who give themselves to us and others. Go ahead-give yourself as the best Christmas gift your family and friends can ever receive.