Gifts can be of very different nature, and they certainly produce different reactions in us. It is a topic that merited our attention at the park last time some moms and I met for a nature study.
There are the intangible gifts of friendship, of shared meals, and teas, and chatter. Giving and sharing among loved ones and friends who know who we are, and whom we know well, are such a joy. We receive gifts all the time from others: clothes, books, food, tokens of appreciation. My in laws, for example, when they have visited us, have left several things built in the house and patio, my mother in law has cooked us meals, cleaned places I did not know they existed, and whatever does not stand visible, a reminder of their love for us, stays in our hearts as memories to treasure for life.
And then, there are those special occasions and seasons when it is our cultural or family custom to exchange gifts. I know those who, for reasons we should all respect and never ridicule, do not celebrate birthdays, or Christmas, or -insert holiday of your choosing-, and yet when those around them do, they end up with uncalled for presents, or gifts they value. Who knows? What I do know is that when we gift others, we usually give something we believe they should have, or will like, or better, we give that which we like. Thus the better others know you, the higher the chance they will know what to give you; they know who you are, what you value.
Back to square one. What should we give to others who have such different life styles than us, and most importantly, how should we receive gifts from those kind of people -whether family, friends, or simply acquaintances-?. I can tell you what I do, after I have gone through different seasons in my life of vexation and frustration.
For those of you who love a story or two, we have done a birthday in which we asked others to donate to a children’s home. We thought our girls have way too many toys and material possessions (which is true), and we assumed (sigh. wrooong expectation!) others will “get the point”. Some guests came with a check for the place, which, come to think about it, it was a bit imposing on our side, since I have bought birthday presents for $5 dollars of things on sale, and it may have been embarrassing for others to write a low amount check. We could have asked them to do (or not), the donation privately, but it was still awkward now I think about it. Other guests came with a check and a present. Yet a third group came with just a present for my then 3 year old daughter. I remember my daughter’s radiant face when she opened her presents, yet inside I was not totally reconciled with the thought they did not do what we ask them to do. But I believe some of our friends wanted to see my little girl open presents. There is some joy in seeing a little child opening a wrapped present.
Ever since, I have had friends ask for say, a used book exchange, or no presents… It is clear we all give a thought to this whole enchilada! lol. Then we have the actual presents and the day after. It is then when the recipient goes through the treasures, and admires and loves some of those, and criticizes other choices. This happens all the time, we prefer some people’s company to others, some foods to others… nothing abnormal there. We can always re gift, -at our own risk, ha ha ha-, donate, or toss.
At any given time we get presents from friends of neighbors, we are at risk of gifting or receiving something we reject because of beliefs, dietary restrictions, preferences, etc. Have you been gifted a monumental cheese cake when your family does not eat dairy, or gluten? Have your child received a spanking new collection of Captain Underpants books when you cringe at the thought of twaddle?
Let’s move on to weddings and Christmas, to say two big time gift abiding occasions. What to give to a newly wed couple? As with a new to be mom, there are the popular registries. They are convenient, and sure, many will opt to buy from those. I now value the presents others gave us for our wedding, that were not previously chosen by us, the most. We also have the ultra famous gift card. Convenient, right? I give you that. They are convenient, sure, why not. In some cases they will be the best option. The fact that they are impersonal, makes them thus perfect for those with whom we don’t share a personal relationship. And no sarcasm, they can be great for those we know need money to have some freedom and space to choose how to spend it.
After trying to convince and affect other people’s choices for gifts to my girls, -and sometimes they listened, as in our visits abroad when I requested others not to give us things too bulky or heavy-, nowadays I am more relaxed, -or try, tee hee-, when others give us gifts. I smile and say thank you, and I try to see pass what I am getting and into the person and his motives. There will always be those who “don’t get it”, who don’t know we don’t want another cheap and noisy toy, or any electronic, or costly clothing, sigh. There will also be those who expect we correspond whenever they spend more than we see sensible, and those who will criticize our gifts to them. As in life, we will not be able to please everybody, so, whatever you do, do it from your heart and don’t look back.
I don’t want to come across as writing poor religion, but remember than Jesus gave us all the gift of eternal life, and many refuse it.