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Coyote Thoughts: My Best Christmas Present

Natives are often the most generous people. To give something to show you appreciate another person is one of the most enjoyably things I know. Christmas giving can have unintentional side effects. I have had great years and just as many thin years around Christmas. The Christmas onslaught of commercials and the expectations of warm places with good people create pain when life doesn’t measure up.

There have been many years when I was scraping by, not homeless, but not having any extra money to make me feel happy and buy the gifts for my friends. I remember being given Christmas presents and on one hand feeling joy, but quickly the ‘punch in the stomach’ feeling hit me because I could not afford anything for them in return. It was a sad, empty and shameful feeling that I could not return the favor and I could not talk about it. There is a lot of pressure being short on cash. Adding to the pressure was believing that I had to buy gifts to show someone how much they meant to me. Being broke or poor is its own punishment, as tires need to be replaced, heating bills arrive and of course having food and gifts for the kids. Often being overwhelmed days before Christmas and then receiving a gift adds to the sinking feeling rather than a joyous time for the Christmas season.

In the old days, everybody got handmade gifts from their parents and ancestors. But now in the 21st Century we buy the things we need rather than make them. Beth and I are fortunate that our parents gave us the gift of being able to work with our hands. Both of us can make things for gifts. Often it takes us hours but the gifts are affordable and to us, and they mean more. Buying gifts has long passed for us and we are very happy it has. 

One year for my birthday a friend mowed my yard for his gift to me. What a cool thing to do. He gave his time and effort for me. That was better than a wrapped gift. I still remember it many years later! The best gifts that I get are the ones when somebody tells me how they are glad I am in their life or that I add a quality and laughter to their day. These nice unexpected heart-felt words from friends make my heart soar like an eagle. It is hard to beat something like that. I can carry that with me forever.

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Words can be more precious than diamonds. They are always with you. They can lift you up and warm you on a cold miserable day. Most of all, you can give these words away and still have them. They are meant to be shared. Be generous with your thoughts, words and kindness. Most people give to give, not to receive. If you are short on money, return the gesture with the priceless gift of heart felt words. This is my gift to you.

Dr. Beau Washington received his doctorate from the University of Northern Colorado. A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Beau grew up at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, where his Father was a teacher. While researching depression, he also discovered the wide range of problems that rumination (dwelling) on problems creates in other mental problems as well. His active understanding of ruminative thought lead to developing a technique for effectively stopping the painful thoughts that plague distressed individuals. In addition, Beau developed cognitive models of depression and addiction.

Beau’s therapy model is entering the clinical trial stage at the University of New Mexico. He is training behavioral health clinics in his therapy. Beau is also adapting his therapy for sports, making it easier for players to focus on the moment.

He has also developed a Native suicide prevention program called “Coyote Thoughts” ©2013. Beau has trained Native mental health clinics and presented at reservations as well as regional and national conferences. Visit his website