Bess, in her soft, loving way, told me of her Native American traditions, which touched me deeply and are worth sharing. She reminded me that the greatest gifts are not THINGS but the treasures we give to one another...

These are the months of gift giving! Mother's Day! Father's Day! Graduations! And before that was Christmas! Chanukah! Kwaanza! Valentine's Day! The list goes on. Gift cards? Shower gels? Books? Toys? New video games? In the midst of the shopping sprees, I am stopped in my tracks with a memory and a reminder. Long, long ago, one of my instructors in graduate school became one of my lifelong closest friends - Bess "Chee Chee" Haile. Her father was Chief Thunderbird of the Shinnecock Tribe in Southampton, New York. The Thunderbird car was named in his honor. We were talking about gift giving and Bess, in her soft, loving way, told me of her Native American traditions, which touched me deeply and are worth sharing. She reminded me that the greatest gifts are not THINGS but the treasures wegive to one another, such as: Time Together: a walk, a talk, watching a rainbow, enjoying a sunset, listening, sharing. When I asked a small boy what was the best part of his days, he told me, "When my dad drives me to soccer." That 10 minutes he spent with his dad in the car was his "best part." Songs and Dances: Bess said a beautiful gift from her tradition is for someone to sing you a special song composed just for you or a song dearly loved. Inspired by that thought, I wrote a poem called, "I Give You My Song." What about a dance? Nothing is as precious to me as a dance taught to me and shared bymy brother-in-law Herb. I teach it to my dance group and the gift dances on! Poems, Pictures and Letters: I need a note to pin on my front door - "In case of emergency, fire or flood, please save pictures and poems gathered from children through the years." No gift of any price could be more priceless than the little note I once found from my youngest child,Dan, now 50 years old, that read, "Dear Mother, I had fun in school today." Gifts from Your Hands: Make it, gift it. No store-bought jewelry can match the beaded necklace or bracelet, glued pin or leather lanyard chain made for you by a child. My son-in-law Jim, a glassblower, creates, among other treasures, beautiful hearts. I write "from Jim's hands and my heart to yours." Children need to know we treasure their works from hands to hearts. Thank you, Bess, for that sweet memory and reminder during this gifted time of ours! In the midst of our awesome, advanced-technology, product-centered culture, it is important to stop and sing the old song, "'Tis a gift to be simple...." -Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld is an arts educator and author, based in Columbus. Photo by Tessa Berg