Think of giving not as a duty,
but as a privilege.
- John D. Rockefeller Jr.
By: Gina Kay Singerhouse
Standing in the corner of the room, as regal as can be, is one of the most beautiful Christmas trees you have ever seen. The lights glisten upon the boughs; their warm twinkling glow enhances the pure beauty of the evergreen. Each branch is adorned with ornaments that tell a grand story, the story that is your family. The elegance of the branches flow to provide cover for all of the beautifully wrapped presents below. The tree delicately gives protection for the surprises hidden amongst the packages.
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Wrap your presents to your darling from you
Pretty pencils to write I love you
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
- Willie Nelson
Christmas morning arrives and you are gathered around the tree to open the various gifts your loved ones have graced you. The true magic of Christmas comes as you open that one gift and you are forced to smile and say, “Thank you, it’s all I ever wanted.” In reality—it is the worst gift you have ever received.
We all have been there, on the receiving end of a bad gift. We question why and what the person was thinking, when they bought that gift for us.
In today’s society, we are so connected that we are disconnected. We have made our lives so busy that we don’t take the time to really get to know each other. Then when Christmas rolls around and we go searching for a gift for our friends and loved ones, we really don’t consider the person whom we are buying for.
“I know how you feel about all this Christmas business, getting depressed and all that. It happens to me every year. I never get what I really want. I always get a lot of stupid toys or a bicycle or clothes or something like that.” shares Lucy.
“What is it you want?” asks Charlie Brown.
“Real estate.” replies Lucy.
What is that you want? Do you even know what you would like your friends and family to get you this Christmas? What gift would make this Christmas special to you?
“That's what it's all about, isn't it? That's what it's always been about.” yells the Grinch. “Gifts, gifts... gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts! You wanna know what happens to your gifts? They all come to me. In your garbage. You see what I'm saying? In your garbage. I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found at the dump. And the avarice... The avarice never ends! ‘I want golf clubs. I want diamonds. I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored and sell it to make glue.’ Look, I don't wanna make waves, but this whole Christmas season is...
...stupid, stupid, stupid!”
In my nearly five decades on this earth, I have been on the receiving end of way too many bad gifts. The first came for my birthday when I was four years old and my brother gave me a stick and told me that I was naughty. Three decades later, he gave me a calendar. Yes, he is older than I am.
Now many of you might go the route of, well it’s the thought that counts. The point I am trying to make is that there is no thought! Secretly we do not think about the person we are giving too! More than we will admit, we are thinking about ourselves than the person who will receive our gift.
We refuse to take the time to get to know the person we are buying for. Then we feel obligated to give them a gift so that their feelings won’t be hurt. Therefore, we end up purchasing, wrapping and giving them a present that has no heart and soul. The result is that we develop a hatred or contempt for the person who gave us such a heartless gift.
A few years back, I had the worst Christmas ever! Any one who really knows me knows that I am an avid baker. This particular Christmas, my mixer broke and that was the one and only thing that had I wished for. Come Christmas morning, I opened up a present to reveal a used, refurbished mixer. Later on, I opened up another package, by a different person, that revealed a bunch of junk that was purchased without meaning from a dollar store. I was so hurt by both gifts that the next day I burned the junk in my yard while crying; later I sold the mixer at an auction and bought the mixer I that would serve my baking needs.
You may think that I am ungrateful when it comes to these gifts. Nonetheless, there is a psychology behind the gift giving process.
According to Judy Stanigar, a licensed clinical social worker, “And while it would be ideal that all gift giving was done with selfless intentions, that is not always the case. For some people, especially those who are nervous, anxious, or overly worried about how others see them, tensions are created in both giving and receiving a gift. However, most of the time, the giving of gifts are motivated by the altruistic intention of providing the recipient some joy and pleasure.
“Gift giving may cause no little anxiety, as we want to make sure that the gifts we give reflect what we feel about the receiver. We don’t want there to be a disconnect between how the giver and receiver view the gift. The fear is that the reflection of the gift is a mirror or the relationship it represents. When misinterpretations do happen it can be uncomfortable, even embarrassing, for both giver and receiver. When the gift is much more or much less than was expected, negative feelings will accompany the exchange.”
We want to make sure that the gifts we give reflect what we feel about the receiver….reflection of the gift is a mirror of the relationship it represents.
So what do those gifts, that I mentioned previously, say to me? It says that - I am not loved, I am unworthy, and or the giver does not cherish me as a person and only feels obligated to purchase a gift to give me. Personally, I would rather not be on the receiving end of a gift that was thoughtless and heartless. The situations that I had mentioned has created traumas for me that today I am trying to heal.
I will admit that I have not always given the best gifts. There have been times where the gift I had given the person was thoughtless and worthless. Nonetheless, if I listen to my heart, I can always find the right gift to give.
There is an art to gift giving.
Christmas, birthdays and other special occasions come around every year. We all know that, nonetheless we tend to forget them until we are surprised when we are forced to face the event head on.
First and foremost, majority of the people we are giving gifts too tend to drop hints. The problem is we have to be present for them. Some times, we are fortunate to have these hints smack us in the face, but most of the time they are subtle and we need to be open to receiving these indications.
For an example, a friend of mine loved snowmen. Her collection is quite large, but I noticed that most of her snowmen looked a lot a like. Each year I would purchase her a special snowman, often one that reflected a positive event that she experienced and shared with me during the year.
I noticed a subtle hint that my mother subconsciously gave me one year. She was going through her event calendar when she noticed that she had missed one of her sister’s birthdays. For Christmas that year, I bought her all the birthday and other special event cards that she would need for the up coming year. To help her remember, I addressed each one of the cards and in the upper right hand corner, where the stamp went, I put the date that the card needed to be mailed. She thought that was the greatest thing. More so, this was the gift that kept on giving.
Pay attention to what has heart and meaning.
Last year a friend posted on Facebook a photograph of her Christmas tree. I was concerned as I saw that the pile of gifts out measured the six-foot tree. Sure, she had purchased everything that her family wanted; nonetheless, did they really receive what their hearts truly desired?
Through the use of commercialism, society has led us to believe that we can find happiness within our possessions. Look at the largest chain store in the world—Wal-Mart. The marketing behind Wal-Mart is found in the layout of the store as it is designed for impulse buying. If you honestly want to find that perfect gift, then stay away from the stores that are designed for impulse purchases. These are the stores that you frequently visit throughout the year, such as department stores. This is where small businesses come into play. Many small businesses tend to carry merchandise that encompasses sincerity while providing one of a kind gifts from the heart.
True happiness is not found in material items, but in experiences that build memories.
At Christmas time, why do we gravitate towards timeless classic movies that bring us into the past? Is it because we cherish the simplicity of the past or is it to bring forth long forgotten memories?
Think back to your childhood...can you remember any of the gifts you received? Like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, did you long for that one item and on Christmas day, did you received it?
I remember a few of the things I received as a child. Each year my Grandmother would knit me a pair of mittens. She was quite poor, but those mittens meant everything to her as each stitch was stitched with love. It has been thirty-two years since Grandma passed, but today I still have several pairs of those mittens. Each year I place one pair, which I believe was the last pair I had received, under my Christmas tree in remembrance of her and the simple gift of her love.
One year, my parents gave each of us kids a surprised gift. Growing up on a farm, we had to exchange our gifts on Christmas Eve, because time did not allow us to celebrate on Christmas morning. In our house, my mother insisted that we went around the room and exchanged gifts one at a time. She always said, “This way Christmas will last longer and you will get to see what everybody received.” I was about thirteen when at the end of our gift exchange; my mother reached under the tree and pulled out three beautifully wrapped boxes. Each box was different in size. One was addressed to my brother, one for my sister and a third for me. We were surprised when mom told us to open them all together. Carefully, I unwrapped my box thinking it was money or something grand. But, there was nothing inside but a hand written note that said “A whole box of love - from Mom & Dad. Love you.” My parents are now gone and each year that gift means more to me than the previous year.
This past year, my husband and I celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Society dictates that we should host a huge party. In reality, we celebrated by watching the sunrise over Lake Superior. This event has become a cherished memory that no one can ever take from us.
Never give money, gift cards
or items from a dollar store!
What?! We would be kidding ourselves if we say that we never want money. According to psychiatrist Dr. Neel Burton, “Giving money basically sends out the message, ‘I couldn't be bothered to think too much about you, so here you go, please yourself, that's what you're worth to me.’”
When you receive money, what do you do with it? Do you pay off your credit cards and other bills? Do you save it for the preverbal rainy day? Do you purchase something for yourself?
If you truly care about a person that you are giving a gift too, then no amount of money can substantiate their value to you.
Gift cards are a lazy person’s gift. Nonetheless, there is a proper way to give a gift card. Remember that giving an experience goes further than giving material objects. Therefore, if you must give a gift card, give one that has an experience attached to it. A perfect example of this would be if my brother gave me a gift card to his favorite coffee shop with a note that said, “I don’t really know you, but I would love to take the time too… meet me at this coffee shop…”
There are two reasons why people shop at dollar stores. One they cannot afford traditional gifts and two, they really are Scrooge!
“A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge.
Every one of us goes through a period in our lives when we, financially hit rock bottom. For many of us, it can be very embarrassing to say the least. Nonetheless, those of us who have hit rock bottom tend to give gifts with more meaning attached.
A few years ago, a friend was in that situation. She so desperately wanted to give me a gift, but could not afford it. When she told me of her situation, I smiled and told her it was all right. I then told her that if she really wanted to give me something that all she had to do was make a couple of coupons for things like “A day with her” or “Game night” at her house. This gift of her love and time meant more to me than all the money in the world.
If you are shopping at a dollar store because you are tight with your money, then do the world a favor and keep your money. It is one thing to be frugal, but it is another to give gifts out of obligation. If you are frugal, then shop for your loved ones all year and watch the sales. If you really follow the marketing schemes of your favorite stores, then you will know that certain sales are slated for certain times of the year. The best sales are actually not around Christmas, but during the off-season.
It’s not how much you paid for the gift…
It’s about how much thought that went into the gift.
Society has taught us that the more money we spend on a person, the more they will love the gift we give. This is utterly false! Sure, we would all love to give the world to our loved ones; nonetheless, the world is not what they need.
The truth behind the art of gift giving is love. No amount of money can buy love. Nonetheless, love is a commodity that we all have an abundance of.
My cousin absolutely loves giraffes and through her vast admiration for the animal, she has taught me to see their true beauty. As much as I would love to buy her a giraffe, I cannot. Instead, I sponsor a giraffe at the local zoo in her name and give it to her as a gift.
Many Zoos offer animal sponsorship that is unbelievably reasonable in cost. The zoo that I go through, Como Park & Conservatory, offers a wonderful gift pack that comes with the sponsorship. However, the most important part of this gift is that it keeps on giving too many.
I give you the gift of…
A few years ago, I was introduced to several indigenous ceremonies that involved a very unique gift giving process. Many of these ceremonies are older than Christmas itself and are now being taught once again.
The indigenous ceremonies give gifts from the heart that are more like wishes, intentions and even prayers. These gifts are those who truly come from the heart as that is where they originate. Nonetheless, these gifts can be difficult to manage, as you must be careful with the wording.
I have taken part in several of these ceremonies and have found them to be more gratifying than those of modern era. These gifts often begin with “I give you the gift of…” Some examples are I give you the gift of patience in your life; I give you the gift of loving yourself once again; I give you the gift of a year of good health. Again, you must be very careful in what you say and how you say it. Personally, I would rather receive a gift such as this, than one of monetary value.
In recent years, we have lost our way when it comes to gift giving. This year, instead of creating a Christmas filled with anxiety and bad gifts; take the time to really focus on the true gift giving purpose… love.
I give you the gift of the love found in gift giving!
(This article was printed in the November / December 2018 issue of Strictly Country Magazine.)
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