‘Tis the season that burdens millions of people for a multitude of reasons while still offering some delights.
Gift giving can tax your energy at the best of times if approached as an obligation. Obligation sucks the joy out of an occasion and can definitely be felt by the recipient on some level, truly defeating the purpose of and souring the celebration.
What purpose do gifts serve? What is a gift really?
I’ve thought long and hard about this recently and have come up with something I hope you’ll find helpful.
This post is not meant to add to your burdens this season, it’s about generating another point of view on an age old tradition that, if it resonates, can be considered for next time…
One of the greatest human experiences is to feel known.
When someone ‘gets’ you, there’s a beautiful alchemical moment of connection that can happen, even when the other isn’t around face to face.
When I receive something that has less to do with me and more to do with the giver I can feel confused or hurt: the choice of colour, shape, the object itself, these reflect the giver not me. It’s the balancing of the giver and receiver in the gift that makes all the difference and that's what I’m inviting you to experiment with when you can.
What do you know about the person you’re gifting? All the many preferred details you’ve witnessed over the years that speak volumes.
There’s an incredible resource you might find helpful called The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. He discovered as he researched globally that people feel loved in 5 different ways he calls languages: Words of affirmation, gift giving, quality time, physical touch, acts of service. Understanding your primary love language and that of the ones you love will take so much of the mystery out of your relationships. Might be a good read in 2023…
A meaningful gift actually delivers the message: I know you.
Your efforts in observation, sensitivity, thoughtfulness reflect a generosity of spirit far more valuable than the price tag. Have you ever felt good giving a compromise when you think the person is so hard to buy for, or already has everything so you just default to a generic present?
‘I know you.’ What an opportunity!
That precious expression is what you’re actually giving or not.
It can be painful when someone gets it so wrong -because the unspoken message can feel like “I don’t know you.” Or “I’m not interested enough to get to know you” or ‘This is all I could find because I had to get you something’. Or harsher still, “I won’t take the time to get you something that reflects what I know about you.” Have you ever felt this way?
Please don’t second guess your gift giving over my point of view. It’s only mine. A few decades ago I suggested to the people who repeatedly gave me things I just end up giving away, to consider simple consumable presents because my house was full and my aesthetic too difficult to anticipate. (I felt uncomfortable they were wasting their money)
Dare to gift a simple gift that reflects what you know about someone.
In my childhood my mother finally put her foot down one year after getting yet another kitchen gadget and insisting next time the gift be something for her, not the household. We were all stunned- assuming each time she’d appreciate the convenience. But that wasn’t the point of the occasion and we were clueless!
Is your recipient a foodie? What flavours do they really enjoy? A favourite fruit in a crafted jam, artisan salsa, hot sauce set, or aged balsamic vinegar. Specialty Tea, or coffee or spices in known preferred flavours. Imported cheeses, mustards, medley of olives or dried fruit with yummy crackers you know they only afford as a very special treat.
If it’s a wearable, reflect on the preferred texture, the colour, shape and functionality that would be most appreciated. To 'hard to buy for' Laila Goddess clients I often suggest putting a website wish-list together and send the link to their stumped family to help them get to know their taste.
How about a book by favoured author or subject, or tickets to see a touring entertainer. If it’s a plant choose a colour you know they love, spring bulbs if they garden. A spa or massage gift certificate or house cleaning service if they would love the help but won’t afford it themselves. . Bath products if that’s the way they relax, or candles in scents you know they really enjoy.
If they’ve been missing your company, gift them your precious time for a shared meal, art gallery visit, Scrabble game or forest walk.
Sentimental? Frame a fond memory or special note/card.
When my father was dying I created a collage of family photos and had it printed (Vistaprint) on a fluffy blanket so he could feel the love and be visually reminded of his long good life as he kept warm in his chair in his last months. Later the memory blanket was passed on to his grandchild…
Write a letter about your fondest shared memory or how helpful and impactful their friendship has been to you.
Are they overwhelmed by tasks they need to complete? Gift your time to help clean out the garage, organize the basement, deliver junk to the dump or help with income tax. If it’s not possible for you, perhaps hire a service provider.
These are just varied budget ideas to get your creative options flowing for what’s possible beyond the weekly consumer laden flyers; Examples of a way to simply say. ‘I know you and you matter enough to me to demonstrate it.’
It doesn’t have to be expensive or big or hard to get. If you already got them something, consider for next time a personal gift that speaks volumes in the 'I know you' gesture. See what happens in their reaction.
This is a new muscle that can be exercised in the gift-giving sphere of life. Yes a bit hard at first but it just needs to be practiced to transcend 'stuff' into substance.
Perhaps keep a list going of what you observe- to use as reference for the next gift. You can ask them too if you don't know their favourite hobby, music, colour, scent, flavour etc. Have fun in the discovery.
This doesn’t have to feel like more ‘work’, not when you allow yourself the room to realize and take pleasure in how much you already know someone and their preferences.
The experience of being known is a rare feeling in this fast busy world.
To be truly seen is so precious.
A gift of appreciation that reflects your loving effort to know the other well enough, and have that knowing thoughtfully expressed, is a worthy gift you will both receive and that will resonate for a long, long time.
For me that’s what is meant in the saying ‘It’s the thought that counts.’
You can choose the thought, ‘I know you.’
There’s nothing more you’d need to say.