I’ve probably blogged about this in the past, but I was reminded of the subject this morning by an object on my bathroom floor.
You see, I think that the vast majority of gift giving is done not with the recipient in mind, but instead to soothe the conscience of the giver. You know, like, if I just get so-and-so a shirt every year for the holidays, I’ve fulfilled my responsibility and that frees me up to be an ass the rest of the year. Because isn’t that what life is all about — giving meaningless gifts a couple of times a year and ignoring the real value of friends and family the rest of the year?
The way I see it is gift giving should be about the recipient. Finding a gift that means something to the person on the receiving end and isn’t just a gift that reflects going through the motions.
Wait. I have an example. This year, a certain relative got me two holiday gifts. One of them has remained in the corner on the floor in our bathroom since the day I opened it. The other is a t-shirt from Hawaii because she went there this year. Call me silly and I know I’m supposed to appreciate these little tokens, but I didn’t actually go to Hawaii this year.
Why do I want to wear a t-shirt from Hawaii? You see, if I’m going to wear a t-shirt with words on it, I want the words to mean something to me. Like all of the t-shirts I have from 5ks, 10ks, and half-marathons I’ve run. My S.F. Giants t-shirts and a few t-shirts that have other words that are relevant to me. But a t-shirt with Hawaii on it means nothing to me. What it really represents is this … “let’s see, I need to get a gift for Mark this year. I know, it’ll be easy to just get a t-shirt while I’m in Hawaii. Box checked.” That’s what gifts like that mean to me.
But, wait there’s more. There’s that object on the bathroom floor. It’s a new toiletry bag. So, tell me something. I have a professional job. One in which I’ve had to travel quite a bit over the past 25 years. I also, of course, have traveled with my family. Don’t you think I’d have a toiletry bag already? In fact, I have two. At least. And, guess what? I don’t even use them any more. I just throw my deodorant and tooth brush and whatever else I need in gallon-sized plastic bag and throw it in my luggage.
So, what’s the toiletry bag about? What does it have to do with me? And my needs and wants. Absolutely nothing. Yes, I know. I KNOW. I should appreciate these gifts as an effort. Problem is that I just don’t see how the effort has anything to do with me. I’m not interested in a check the box gift.
Me? I want to give gifts that have meaning to the recipient when they come to me and not just check off boxes at birthdays and holidays. Me? I don’t want your gifts unless you’ve thought of them and realize that they are about me and not about you.
Do I manage to do this myself all the time? No, of course not. It’s the pressure to conform and just engage in the same box checking that everybody else does. But, I’m trying.