As an enthusiastic gift giver, I have recently reevaluated my gift giving patterns. Gift giving should not be a burden. Push back from this response. Buying gifts should be an expression of friendship and love. Unfortunately, many give gifts to earn favor or advantage with others. Obligation may be the driving force. Examine the entire process. The motive behind gift giving varies greatly. I have considered the gifts that have been well received and those that may not have been the best idea. Over the years I have given gifts that have been used over and over by the recipient and some that have simply disappeared. We all know that feeling. Not surprisingly, this year has encouraged some radical rethinking of gift giving.
What does it mean to rethink gifts? One might rearrange, revise, reaccess or reexamine or maybe my favorite word…reenvision.
Just this week one of my grown children asked me how I became a super gift giver. While I don’t think I would call myself this title, I do know that I am intentional about gifting. The question involved exploring how I think of gifts for people? This prompted me to think of sharing some of what I have learned over the years. When I am with a family member or friend, I listen. My awareness aims to be a responsive listener. Because I want to know them well, I try to listen well. For those I gift regularly, I am on the alert to hear something that they need or want. Sometimes I make notes on my phone or in my planner for a future gift. It is so fun to buy something someone has wanted and yet not bought yet. Joy comes from meeting a need. Part of the warm emotion in giving and receiving such a gift is in being known and equally in knowing someone you love. Another satisfying result is to purchase a gift that will be used frequently. As I write, I am bundled in a super warm robe that my Katie gifted me last year. I wear it all the time when I am needing to be cozy. It makes me think of Katie and how much I love her and she loves me. Physical gifts have their place, but so do experience gifts. This circles back to attentiveness and responsiveness.
When is gifting needed? Gifting is really a need throughout the year. Some think about gifts on birthdays, Christmas and celebratory events such as graduation and weddings. Sometimes a gift is needed immediately while other gift giving times can be anticipated in advance. Preparedness offers thoughtful responses.
Question what is best for the recipient. The average U.S. household has 300,000 things. My husband and I just downsized from the home that we built and raised our five children for 23 years. We also lost all four of our parents while living in that home. This process was intense. Each of us are in different seasons. One of my grown children is practically living out of a suitcase while another one has most of their things in storage while he travels for work. Another has just bought his first home and married. As demonstrated here, needs vary.
Our year has been dominated by a huge life reset. We retired early and moved to another state to be close to family. This involved emptying one home and moving into another home. After hauling so much to donation, giving away, selling and fulling trash bins, I am obviously thinking of living with space in less space. Clearly, I am rethinking gifts due to the fresh experience of moving. I do think of myself as a thoughtful gift giver, but it is critical that I continue to grow in this area too. While some ask for cash or gift cards, I am prone to think that a physical gift or an experience gift live on in their memories attached to their memories of our relationship. If I give a gift card, I write a note with a Sharpie on the card so they will remember the giver when they use it. I love to remember the giver when I use a gift card. Many of the gifts we give our children meet a need and are things we might buy them anyway. This was especially true when they were children growing up in our home without their own income. My husband and I often gift each other something that we are doing together to improve our home. Often we take a trip together to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary. So, thoughtful, needed gifts or experiences are potentially the best choice now and always.
Giving gifts to those we love is part of the joy of living and loving. Just yesterday, my Katie sent my husband and I to a new restaurant downtown with a lovely view and some new food ideas. Her gift celebrated our move and new home like a house warming gift. Have you tried cinnamon crunch French toast? Yesterday’s adventure brought this new twist on breakfast to my taste buds. My plan is to share this with my extended family for our next family Christmas gathering.
If you are looking for fresh ideas for gifting, here are a few thoughts:
- What would I like to GIVE? What do I bake, cook or create well? What do I enjoy that others might enjoy too? Sharing brings joy.
- How do I want this Christmas or birthday to FEEL? Consider touching our senses? Can I share a smell? (The candles I make in our pottery are always a welcome gift. Our Christmas Stovetop Potpourri is a scent that instantly brings joy. This is a super easy gift to share.) Soft blankets are welcome anytime. I send a cozy blanket to friends when they are sad, recovering from surgery or having a baby. Sounds bring happiness. Sending a receptive friend songs periodically is a great way to communicate that you are thinking of them and sharing a thought through music. Creating playlists and attending live music events rate highly. Taste gifts are extremely well received. Enough said. Seeing gifts might mean taking time to wrap thoughtfully or going on a plannned drive on a beautiful mountain. Use your imagination to activate a sense gift anytime of year.
- Who has a NEED that I can meet? Perhaps you see a need and you can meet it. Giving is always more satisfying than receiving. Pack up your supplies and hurry to help others.
- What experiences can I SHARE? Maybe attending a function together or buying an annual pass to a nearby activity such as a garden, amusement park or theatre. The options are endless. If you buy passes to go together, you will be investing in hours of togetherness and a lifetime of memories.
- What SKILLS and talents can I share? Honestly evaluate all that you have to share. Giving your time and talents to someone is perhaps one of the most meaningful of all gifts. Sometimes helping with a home improvement or a repair is the best gift.
Clearly, it is key to have this conversation with those closest to you who you share life with regularly. When you are together, find ways to meet everyday needs. Observe what might make their life easier. So often we can come beside each other and help with physical work. Doing life well might mean that you do life as a community. Help each other in tangible ways.
Find new ways to gift. Think of ways to add freshness to the next gift you give. Remember happiness is self-made. Be creative if you rethink gifting.
Join us for a conversation on rethinking gifting on Embrace Your Everyday podcast.
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