Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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The Art of Gift Giving

On the count of three, let’s all confess out loud how strange our gift giving practices have become. I won’t pretend to be above it – I participate as much as the next guy – but I think it’s time we said a few words about the irony associated with gift giving around this time of year.
What started out as a generous attempt to show someone what they mean to us has become a time where everyone makes lists full of things they want. I’ve been guilty of this: “Hey, I really want this one thing but can’t afford it right now because I have to buy you a present… how about you buy it for me and then I will buy you the thing you want but can’t afford right now because you have to buy that thing I want for me”. We are asked to be in so many gift exchanges every year – but we usually decline on account of not having enough money to buy gifts we feel would please the recipient. Plus, if we said yes to every offer, we’d end up indebted to VISA for things we would never buy otherwise – having received things from someone else they would never buy otherwise.
At what point does this time of year just become a remorseful exchange of money? I had friends back in the day that could decide whether or not they wanted presents or the money their parents would spend on the presents. I don’t think Santa would approve. This is a guy that has his own workshop where we he has little elves custom designing the perfect toy for each child – because he thinks it’s awesome to bring joy to hearts by sneaking in through a chimney under the cover of night and leaving a little surprise under each tree. I think asking for the money straight up should be an automatic demotion to the naughty list. But seriously, Saint Nicholas went out at night and gave gifts that were totally unsolicited and unexpected – and to people who were truly grateful for them but would never know who to thank.

Perhaps it has been commandeered by the marketplace, exploited by materialism, taken hostage by a lofty form of suburban tradition – and perhaps this has caused us to miss the whole point of ‘gift giving’. Giving gifts is supposed to be fun and exciting – it’s a venture that’s supposed to be entered into with willingness and generosity. It is about expressing love with the element of surprise. It’s a sacred thing.

My wife has taught me so much about giving. She LOVES spending the time to find the perfect gift for people – gifts that will cause the recipient to brim with joy and pleasantries upon opening. It’s one of her favorite things in the world! She believes that gift giving can communicate love in a way that most things cannot. And like her, I hope to recapture the idea of giving as an ART.

Add to the conversation. How can we return gift giving to the art it is supposed to be?


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