Lisa kindly gave me permission to do a repost of her December 21st blog entry, as it expresses many of my own sentiments regarding gift giving. My husband and I several years ago made a vow not to exchange gifts with each other, as we already have all we need having each other. What gift giving we do with others we try to keep simple and green.
So in Lisa’s words:
I am both the best and the worst gift-giver in the world!
How is it possible to be both? Allow me to explain.
When it comes to the times you people expect gifts, like Christmas, birthdays, other random holidays, I stink. I do not like getting gifts for people just because I’m supposed to get them a gift.
However, when the time comes to give a gift because I care, I shine. I would rather give gifts when people least expect them, because then those gifts come from the heart. For example, when I lived in Japan, I think I missed most of the gift-giving moments, but I spent a lot of time (and in some cases a lot of money) looking for the perfect gift to send the important individuals in my life. In other words, I thought about what each person would want/need/love and never get for him/herself and that is the gift I gave.
At this time of year, when gifts seem more like obligations than signs of caring, there are several questions that drive me crazy:
- What do you want . . .?
- Which one of these do you like?
- Would you like ______ or _______?
If I have to answer a bunch of questions about a gift, then just let me get it myself. It’s almost easier if you give me money or a gift card. Of course, money often feels like it has strings attached. So often, when I get money as a gift, it comes with instructions as to how the giver would like me to spend it. But seriously, if paying an outstanding bill gives me peace of mind, isn’t that just as valuable as treating myself to a day at a spa?
To me, a gift is something you give a person because it makes you think of that person. It is something that the recipient may never get for him/herself, but you know he/she would love.
A gift is thoughtful and from the heart.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t want gifts on my birthday. But, I prefer the gift of having someone remember and care, to anything bought because someone felt obliged to get me a gift. Actually, I’d rather have a thoughtful dinner with friends, or a special day, then an expensive bauble that has more to do with the buyer than me.
So far, during this crazed gift-giving season, the best gift I have received was the holiday card from Mark (aka the Idiot). I know, everyone gets masses of holiday greetings and year-end updates at this time of year (although a lot of ours seem to have been lost in the mail, as the Post Office continues to be abysmal about forwarding letters.) The reason I say this was a special gift is because it signifies the growing friendship with a person that I have only met through words. I was honored to be put on the list, and that felt like a gift.
To me, the rules of gift giving should be as follows:
- give gifts because you feel like giving them, not because you are expected to give them
- give gifts that show you know and care about the recipient, that you had him/her in mind when you found the gift
- the price or size of a gift doesn’t matter, the love and meaning does
- gives should be given without expectation of return
- gifts should have significance or meaning
- the exception to these rules lies in the giving of gifts to thank someone for their hospitality–that’s a slightly different kind of gift giving, which people should do more often. When in doubt, give chocolate
- once a gift is given, the recipient can do with it whatever he/she wants, including spending money or regifting. But, I think there would be a lot less regifting if gifts were given with purpose and meaning.
So, please understand when I don’t give gifts on a holiday which holds little meaning to me, beyond the festive lights, the music, and the atmosphere of chaotic joy. But, don’t be surprised if someday, for no reason, you get a little gift from me, even if it is simply a note of encouragement.
After all, one of my strongest gifts is with words, so if I can’t share those in kindness than I have nothing else to give.
I wish you all a calm and peaceful holiday season, filled with love, warmth, and joy. The only other gift I can offer, right now, is my continued support to this fabulous community of warm, creative people.
It’s a gift from the heart.