‘It’s the thought that counts.’ This age-old saying suggests that an act of kindness should matter, regardless of how small or imperfect it may be. It’s definitely worth considering as we start hunting for our holiday gifts. The tradition of gift giving is rather fascinating and is one that spans both time and across cultures. There are various events that involve gift giving from birthdays, to weddings, to Ramadan, to Christmas, to Chinese New Years, to Hanukkah, and many more.
Yet the cultural and personal differences in gift giving are just as vast! Regardless of those differences, I believe it’s important to put some thought into the gifts we give. Also, to consider our reaction to receiving a gift! The idea of this gift-giving post is to spark some thought in your gift giving.
To help me with this my cousin Sarah, all the way in Australia, will give her thoughts in this Q and A style post. It's worth noting that although we are blood related, we've only met on two occasions back in 2012. Both our paths have been rather different and yet our values do tend to cross at times. Hope it'll be of use to you this holiday season!
|What’s your personal interpretation of ‘gift’?|
|A gift can be defined as: ‘a thing given willingly to someone, without payment’. This seems apt. A gift doesn’t require or expect reciprocity, giving is selfless. At least, it should be. Gifts can be objects, actions, words, etc., yet the core essence being an act of generosity & kindness, without desire for equitable return.||It’s usually an unspoken form of communication that conveys to someone that you are grateful for his or her presence. Although most of the times gifts are physical objects, I believe time and actions are often gifts we tend to take for granted. For example cooking a meal for someone or teaching someone a skill.|
|Is it better to give or receive a gift?|
|I believe this depends on who is on the other side of the transaction, when both giving & receiving. Every holiday I go over my budget on gifts. I love finding things that are perfect for my friends and to a lesser extent family; but even some of my closest friends aren’t all that great to give to. A grateful recipient heightens the joy of giving! As a recipient, getting a spontaneous gift, or one that I know has been bought because the giver knew it was right for me, these are the best times! Overall though, I enjoy giving more than receiving - I have everything I need and if presents are just bought because they should be, I’d prefer to be given the cost in cash rather than accumulating more ‘things’.|
This is a rather conflicting topic for me. Over time I’ve grown to appreciate mutual give and take. Is pure altruism even possible or realistic? Although, I prefer giving it does feel better to get a thanks and a gracious smile. It’s like a receipt for giving.
Additionally, we often take human kindness as well as the time and effort people spend on our behalf for granted, myself included. After all, how much does a sincere ‘thank you’ cost?
Finally, some of us will take more than they give, sometime unintentionally. Thus, I feel it’s key to balance give and take. To start off, be more aware of the give and take that occurs around us. For example if you enjoyed this post, you may like to know Sarah and myself gave at least a few hours to write it. If you wish to keep up the giving, how about sharing this post with someone?
|What is your advice for getting the ‘perfect gift’?|
|Follow your gut! So often I will pass a shop window, or come across something online and just know it is right! I flatter myself that I’ve gained a reputation for giving ideal gifts; I’m able to do this because I know the people I am buying for. This doesn’t simply mean knowing their likes & dislikes, it also means knowing what is important to them, knowing their values and goals/dreams. I may not be the nicest person on the planet, but I am generous and I do care that recipients of my gifts are affected by them, just as I am when I walk past the shop window…|
My suggestion is to gift an experience and better yet one you can share! This works best if you listen to someone and know them. A few years ago, I invited my father (biologic father) to the Moers jazz festival. Before this I had never even listened to jazz. As the festival commenced, his jazz filled world engulfed me. In many ways it was a chance to truly be with him. I shamefully wonder if I got more out of the gift than he did.
Even if you’re unable to gift an experience, I think the perfect gift should be something that adds to a person’s life based on their interests and/or personality. The key is to listen.
|Do certain events, like Christmas, make you feel obligated to give gifts?|
|Yes. I love Christmas, for what it means and the traditions but, if I had my way, I would be spending the day with friends and it would be that shared time which constituted a celebration, rather than the unwrapping of gifts with family. Buying gifts for people is a pleasure, but at Christmas one can feel pressured into the action. I would prefer to buy for people as I see things they would like, rather than having to find gifts at particular times of the year. However, on the flip-side, friends who do not like getting spontaneous gifts, Christmas is an excuse to give to them!|
A few years ago, my ex-girlfriend randomly gave me a wallet. At the time I was rather ungrateful, since I had a wallet, albeit beat up.Only later, did I realize it’s more natural to just give whenever we feel compelled to. After all Christmas should be about spending time with loved ones, right? So just consider that while you’re out buying gifts this holiday season! Embrace the spirit of Christmas and ignore Mr. Consumerism. By the way I did switch wallets and still use it till this day. Thanks Huihui!
|What is one gift you’ve received which feels like it keeps on giving?|
|For my birthday, perhaps six or seven years ago a friend bought me a chess set, knowing that I didn’t play the game. He then took me to the pub after work and taught me the game. While we have less time than in the past to engage in this pursuit, it still remains one thing that is ours - playing chess at the pub. It is a game which still frustrates me, but I am glad I know how to play and one day, I will win.||This may sound bizarre, yet it’s for sure running. When I was younger my dad (step-dad) would bring me on runs. At first it was frustrating, since I could only run a fraction of what he ran. Yet over time it grew a part of me. Feeling the wind woosh past me truly reminds me that I'm alive! Since, 2011 I’ve been struggling with different injuries. Yet a few weekends ago I had an orienteering race and the joy of running came flowing back to me. Thanks Dad!|
From what Mario and I have written, I think it is clear that both of us value gifts that have been thoughtful and that we ourselves do not give frivolously. This has been an interesting exercise for me to see both our similarities and differences, especially since we've just been in touch for the last few years. This indicates that thoughts and feelings about gift giving may be quite universal. If you’ve found our writing interesting or useful, feel free to share it. Also, we’d like to hear your thoughts on gift giving!