Monday’s Meditation: On Gifts
I am in the business of helping others order their lives. From my work, I have observed many trends about people’s relationship to stuff, perhaps the most common of which is the treatment of gifts; I can tell you with firsthand knowledge that people may not keep the presents you buy for them, but the things you create for them.
“Oh, my brother bought me these,” a client will say, holding up a pair of earrings. “But do you know what? I’ve always hated them.” Plonk, they’re tossed away with the myriad other items in the giveaway pile.
“My mother in law bought this cookbook for me– never once opened it. I feel badly getting rid of it since it was from her, but, oh well.” And off it goes into the donation box.
“Oh my gosh! I forgot about this bag! My friend bought for me in Spain. Must have spent a fortune on it. She’s probably forgotten about it now too, so I can just–” Vetoed. Just like that.
I’ve seen so many good intentions go the way of the giveaway– it’s quite pathetic really.
Here’s how the flip side of this scenario looks:
The other day, my client stumbles upon a card carefully constructed by one of her good friends nearly five years ago.
“Look!” she shows me, “See, she glued each little item on the front because they were all the things I told her I wanted to start doing… little sushi- I told her I wanted to start eating that,” She continues explaining each element to me, “so precious.” And without any discussion, without a moment’s hesitation, and even though one of the miniature sushi rolls has come unglued, she places the card in the “save” pile.
Another client comes upon a scarf her mother knitted for her. “Oh gosh! Mum made this for me ages ago,” she nuzzles the scarf up to her neck. We have no discussion on that one; the scarf is placed resolutely with the rest of the scarves to be saved.
Without fail, my clients easily discern between those two types of gifts– between impersonalized, purchased presents and personally manufactured expressions of affection. And without fail, they shed the former, preserve the latter.
So what’s my intention in sharing this?
It isn’t that you should cease buying each other presents altogether. Frankly, I’m not enlightened enough in the ways of the minimalism lifestyle myself to prescribe such actions for others. It isn’t my attempt to harpoon the rampant consumerism surrounding this time of year, to rain on everyone’s glittering, gold, twinkled-lighted parade by proclaiming that the hours spent reviewing every gift guide ever created by every blogger, boutique and magazine has been a waste of time, that the hard-earned money you’ve willingly sacrificed in order to procure the chosen items has been for naught.
I, too, appreciate the joy of festivities, the necessity of frivolity to combat the dismal oppression of long winter. I wholeheartedly believe that each one of us deserves the excitement of pleasurable indulgences and shiny things.
I don’t mean to Grinch things up by spitting in your face with the fact that the gift you’ve painstakingly picked out for your husband, your sister, your neighbor will one day end up in the goodwill bag or worse, the trash. But they could be, see. Even if a present comes with an exorbitant price tag attached to it, even that still won’t ensure that the item will earn a place in your recipient’s heart. Despite your best efforts to select a present certain to please them, it is still plausible that it won’t quite suit them. Or that over time they will tire of it. Or that it will break. Or become lost. What then?
I ask you, knowing that, how might you do things differently? How might you ensure that the actual present remains a physical token of the intention behind it, rather than the whole of it? How might you package and showcase your affection through emotional expressions? Would you write a couple more lines in your card? Get up extra early to make a hot stack of pancakes on Christmas morning for your crew?
This holiday season, I urge you to give equal consideration towards the emotional component of gifting as to the gift. Remember: any creation, any memory that allows a person to recall your pure love– that will be invaluable. That will be the thing that’s kept, whether in home or in mind.Image credit: Home Life
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