Monday, December 22, 2014

The Fine Art of Gifting

Some people have a knack for buying gifts for others. I'm not one of those people.

I have become so very jaded in this whole gift exchange tradition that seems to go hand in hand with this time of year. 

It feels so very wasteful (to me) to give and receive gifts which will be shelved, regifted, donated or never appreciated in the manner in which they were given. 

When helping my Oldest Son pack up his house when he moved, I was dismayed to find gifts I had given him collecting dust in his basement. Unopened. Unused. Unappreciated. 

One of those gifts was a mailbox (with mail inside of it). If I remember correctly, his 'true' gift was inside of an envelope within that very mailbox. The mailbox was just a creative 'box' to  hold the gift within. When I mentioned this to him years after I found his unopened mailbox he was surprised to hear there was a gift within the gift. He chuckled and said it probably got thrown out.

Last year, my Youngest Son wanted to give something to his older brother. I knew space was of the essence within my Second Son's new home so I suggested he shop for very practical items. There were a few frivolous items within his gift package but all in all, it was a gift for every room in their new home. Perfect! Or so I thought ...

I found several of those items sitting on the shelf in my basement a few weeks later.

My Youngest Son wants for nothing. When I asked him what he would like to open up Christmas morning, he told me there was a game for his PlayStation he would like. That day. That could be his Christmas gift. And it was.

There are no gifts for my children underneath the tree this year. I'm not doing this to be Scrooge. I'm doing this because I'd rather do as my Second Son suggested to his Older Brother: 

My Oldest seemed to adopt the tradition of giving after he received a gift so he could reciprocate 'in kind'. Which meant if he got a gift card for "X" amount of dollars from someone, he would turn around and give a gift card for the same dollar value in return. My Second Son said, "Why don't you keep your $50.00 and I'll keep mine and we will just say we bought each other a gift?"

Isn't this pretty much the case of much of the forced gifting which goes on this time of year? 

I resent the gifts I buy just because I am on the receiving end of an exchange of gifts. I try so very hard to turn that situation into a giving-from-the-heart gift instead of giving-from-the-credit-card. 

I spend far more words than money this time of year. I write Christmas cards because 'words' are my gift. There are probably some who think "Oh no! Here comes a wordy message from Colleen again". But hey! I didn't lose anything but the price of a stamp and the Christmas card (purchased on sale, after Christmas last year). 

The gift is in the giving. When you give from the heart, you receive just as much as you give. 

I share a piece of myself with every word I write. I feel like I have sat down and had a conversation with the person I have just written. 

I can't scrimp on words. I just can't. I have tried.

When I distributed the books I put together for Dad's family, I was unexpectedly surprised when family members asked me to sign the book. Anyone who knows me, knows the only thing in the world I 'simply' sign my name to is a blank cheque or credit card purchase. Everything else? Sorry. You get a pile of excess words.

A friend of mine (who also runs a daycare from her home) asked me if I give a gift to the parents of the children I babysit for. My immediate response was one simple word. "No". I was aghast. The idea had never crossed my mind. 

Until I remembered what I do instead of running out and buying something which may never be used. I put together a Christmas Yearbook for each of my daycare families. Filled with pictures, silly poems and a 'visual' of the year we just spent. Something which most likely will never get thrown out or shelved or be unappreciated. Because it comes from the 'right place', it doesn't even feel like a gift. It is simply sharing 'what I do best' with an appreciate audience.

I spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort putting together this year's Christmas gifts to my daycare family. I wrote (I hyjacked Dr. Suess's format) and illustrated (inserted, copied and pasted pictures) an ABC book specific to what and who I know my daycare family relate to. Our yearbook is jam-packed full of photos from the year, a cheesy poem, a 'letter' from me and (of course) some words to accompany each page of photos.

I feel very good about the end result. 

I love when my gifts cost more time than money. That is how I know I did it right.

But now I am feeling like my own family has been cheated. I don't know if the creative juices will come up something before the Big Day or not. Sometimes creativity and ideas pour out of me. Other times? Not so much. We'll see.

I am going to be so relieved to put the season of forced gifting behind me. I much prefer to give when the spirit moves me and I find a perfectly appropriate gift and idea. And simply act on it impulsively. 

I usually come through in the crunch. But sometimes I don't. If you are on my list, don't worry. I've checked it twice. You are on the nice list. But I'd rather give nothing at all, than to give something which has been forced. 

Some people have this whole 'gifting' thing down to a fine art. I am a small bit envious of you. But I'm not going to take that away from you. Because that is your gift. 

When I receive a gift, the gift is in the thought. The effort. The time. The mere act of giving. I don't even have to unwrap the present. I could simply hold an empty box filled with good intentions, wrapped up with a pretty bow and I would be grateful. 

Hey!! I think I'm onto my next big idea! An empty box filled with good intentions. Now that is my kind of gift.

Happy Gifting to All!!

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