It can all seem so cheap can’t it? So commercial, materialistic and downright frivolous! This custom of buying cheap and nasty - or expensive and excessive - gifts for a seemingly unending array of occasions. Either way, the practice often seems most unnecessary!
But is it really only a question of what the gift might have cost?
We had a look at The History of Giving to see how timeless and universal the custom is; it’s an intrinsic part of being human. We also saw in the Joy of Giving the thrilling heights that can be attained when giving is done ‘well’. But why do we even do it, in the first place? And what holds meaning - the gift or the giving?
Giving is simply an expression. The gift itself is the physical embodiment of that; the gift is the transmission of that expression.
The things we express by giving a gift are as limitless as the occasions on which we give them. At various times we might want to express love, affection, peace, support, thoughtfulness, admiration, gratitude, encouragement, consolation, forgiveness, friendship… and we express these types of emotions on the occasion of a birth, death, engagement, wedding, graduation, loss, illness, accident, milestone, achievement, success and the list goes on.
But at such times, why the gift? Because love is more than words... We give to show that we are thinking of the other person and affirming what the other person means to us. What do they want? What do they need? What can I do for them right now to show how much I care?
Often it’s that spontaneous gesture - a visit, phone call, letter - that best serves to deepen the connection, heal a wound or reaffirm a romance. The gift transmits that we have thought about the other person, that we are thinking about them and that we have considered their situation, hopes, needs, likes and dislikes. The gift lets them know that we have gone to some effort to express our feelings. It is the gift that transmits the kindness of those feelings, thereby deepening our bond and strengthening our relationships.
The Gift is the Giving
The extent to which the gift surprises, delights and brings happiness, is often a matter of how deeply we have thought about the other person. Have we really thought about what it is that will make them happy? How well do we know them and what lengths will we go to give the gift that’s exactly right for them? So often what is most needed is the gift of time, offering support by dropping around to visit, not having to cut short the phone call, listening, supporting. In so many ways, the richest gifts are those that cost no money at all. It is the thought that counts. As the saying goes.
"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away" Picasso