Monday, December 30, 2013

The Gift of a New Beginning

Faith, the magazine from Lansing Michigan, had an article on gift giving.  The topic was gifts.  A sister felt cheap because the gifts she gave to her nieces and nephews weren’t equal to the gifts her sister gave to her own children.  I found this subject interesting. 

Gifts have always been a nuisance for me.  I have friends who obviously re-gifted their gifts.  I know.  Once I gave a friend a gift, and she must have forgotten who gave it to her, because I received that very same gift on my next birthday!

One of my most embarrassing stories concerns gift giving.  On year I had to buy too many “little” gifts:

two book clubs yankee swaps under $ 20
work gift exchange under $ 20
my work cubby-mate—whatever
walking group gift exchange-- $ 10
hairdresser-- $ 25
women’s club--ornament swap
two Bible studies gift swap $ 15-20
paper boy--$ 10
ladies from work, monthly dinner, gift exchange--$ 10-20

One of the ladies, in this last gift exchange, had eight children—all grown, with families of their own.  She literally had more than fifty grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Obviously, she had a surplus of bath salts, bubble bath, cologne, lotions, bath sprays, body washes, candles, etc., which she had received as gifts.  She could never use all this stuff, even if she lived two life times.  So she re-gifted.  But it was embarrassing for us other ladies, who had only one gift to exchange when not only did she have the one gift for the exchange, but also, gave many gifts to all of us. 

One stress filled day in the Christmas season, I gave my friend, the above litany of gifts I had to buy.  I was bemoaning the idea of the under $ 20 gift—how much lotion, can a person use?  We all have enough of that junk!  It’s stupid; I give you lotion; you give me lotion.  You can’t get much for under $ 20.  It’s all junk.  I had had enough of it.  I didn't want any more junk.  I didn’t want to buy anymore junk.

My friend stood up nice and straight, opened her bag, and threw a gift at me.  “Well here’s one more piece of junk, for you.”

I-I-I-I didn’t know what to say.

I remembered feeling my neck get red.  I don’t remember anything else.  I don’t remember what I ended up saying.  I don’t know if my friend got up angry and left.  I don’t remember what we said, at all.  (I probably repressed the memory.)

But I learned a lesson.  I continued to buy and receive, all the same under $ 20 junk—but I kept my mouth shut.  I still thought the same.  I still felt the same.  However, I would never verbally express my thoughts and feelings.  That is, until I read this article in Faith

The author, the psychologist, Dr. Cathleen McGreal writes about the motivation, in gift giving.  Are you looking for equity?  Are you looking to get your money’s worth?  Actually, I guess that’s exactly what I was doing.  That’s why I was angry at my friend’s surplus gift giving; it wasn’t equal.

Does your gift giving express love?  Are you kidding me?  I just wanted to be rid of the obligation.
Does your gift giving express the joy of giving?  Bah humbug!


I really am a miserable excuse for a human being. 

How much better the season of Christmas, or any occasion would be, if I gave presents that had more thought put in them.  Dr. McGreal uses the verb “ tailor”,  when she explains the motivation in gift-giving.  She is trying to tell us to think of the other person and “tailor” the gift towards their wants and needs. That’s exactly what I wasn’t doing.  I was thinking of myself and my needs.  I didn’t want to be bothered.

You know, it’s a new year.  I don’t want to be so narcissistic, anymore.  The year 2014 will be the beginning of a new me.  My gift giving will be a reflection of my altruism.  I’ll think of what the other needs, wants, and likes. 

This type of gift-giving, is better for me, too.  Seeing the pleasure in the receiver’s face, will be my gift to myself.  That the gift expresses my love for them, is gift enough, no matter that it was under $ 20. After all, it’s the thought that counts, right?   

A Priest's Day

Here is the book review I promised on Monday, for Death Comes for the Archbishop , by Willa Cather.  She really gets into the nitty-grit...