Opinion: If you've waited until the last minute, try giving of yourself this year

Contributed Photo / What's better than a gift of books this holiday season?

On UPS, on FedEx, on USPS, and independents!

To the top of the porch! to the foot of the door!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!

- with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore's "A Visit From St. Nicholas"

That seems to be the way we acquire most of the holiday presents we buy for people these days, doesn't it?

But maybe you, sagacious reader, have waited until this last week before Dec. 25 because you prefer to get it done all at one time and don't want to take a chance on something you order online not getting to your house on time.

(I'm still waiting on a fancy car de-icer I ordered two Christmases ago. Probably my fault for ordering something I saw on my Facebook feed. Somewhere in China, someone is probably still laughing over how many they sold and didn't deliver.)

But if you are still seeking last-minute gifts, I have a few suggestions. My wish list always starts and ends with books, so I'll mention a few that may be coming my way or I have found provocative in recent years.

- "How Ya'll Doing? Misadventures and Mischief From a Life Well Lived": Actor Leslie Jordan grew up in the same Chattanooga neighborhood and the same time as I did and has been an acquaintance for years, so reading his take on some of the sordid tales I may have heard about and learning about others should be a hoot.

- "Broken": Through the words of author Jenny Lawson, depression and anxiety never seemed so funny. She has her bouts with them - and I understand how serious they can be - but her previous books, "Let's Pretend This Never Happened" and "Furiously Happy," have made me laugh, and this one promises a similar result.

- "Don't Make Me Pull Over: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip": This 2019 book by Richard Ratay had me at its title. Described as offering a nostalgic look at the golden age of family road trips, it likely will remind me of our family's visits to the Kellogg's factory in Battle Creek, Mich., and the town of Peshtigo, Wis. (where a fire on the same night as the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 killed four times as many people), and staying in motels we used to call "Bertha's Sack-Outs."

- "Devil in the Grove": In these days where faux racism is found under every rock, this 2013 saga by Gilbert King actually details what that scourge was like when a 17-year-old white Florida girl accused four Black youths of rape in 1949. Years before being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, attorney Thurgood Marshall - against all advice and in the face of numerous threats - took their case.

- "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks:" This book is more than a decade old, but its story of a Black woman whose cells were taken without her knowledge - and coincidentally led to numerous developments in medicine - is typical of the type of medical experimentation done on some Black people more than 50 years ago and why today many have been skeptical of a COVID-19 vaccine.

If books aren't the cup of tea of those for whom you're shopping, perhaps they'd appreciate you making a gift in their honor.

For some of us, the 2020 Easter tornado was a very personal and devastating experience. If you're one of those, and you received help from one of the many local and national agencies which helped during that disaster, consider helping out one of them (or another one you trust). Those staffs and volunteers are rolling up their sleeves and going to work on the damage from the tornado that hit Kentucky and parts of several other states last weekend.

Speaking of the 2020 tornado, it sheared away most the trees in our backyard, but the sunny expanse it left produced in 2021 the most beautiful and fruitful crop of iris we have seen in years - perhaps as long as we've lived in our home. One patch of double-blooming iris even was blooming at the beginning of this month. The iris is the Tennessee state flower, is easy to grow and is a perennial. Brighten up the lives of someone this season by giving them some iris bulbs that will give them pleasure for years to come.

If you like to cook, surprise those on your list with something you made yourself. It doesn't have to be the standard Chex mix or haystacks (with Chinese noodles and butterscotch chips) - though I'll eat both - but a casserole they can freeze and eat later is a nice touch.

(For the record, my favorite Christmas goodie can be whipped up quickly. Spread peanut butter between two Ritz crackers and dip in melted chocolate bark, then sprinkle while warm with red or green sugar crystals.)

Or, when in doubt, give the gift of yourself. Consider giving your time to the favorite charity of that special someone on your list. Over the years, I've volunteered for the American Cancer Society, the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, among many, and can testify to the rewards one gets from serving others.

Hmm, a gift to humankind? Seems that's how this whole Christmas thing started in the first place.