Friday, November 25, 2011

Thoughts on Giving Gifts

Two weeks ago, I was a part of an interesting discussion among several husbands and wives about gift giving.  It's always one of those interesting things to find out how other couples have sorted out how they would handle Christmas together... who they would give gifts to...  how much they would spend...  which family traditions from their own families they would keep.

My husband and I have sorted all these things out over the years.  But, little things change every year.  I love to give gifts.  It's something I simply love to do.  I don't do it out of obligation or any feeling that I have to do it.  I simply want to.

This year is hard for me.  Normally I would be working on our Christmas cards right now.  I try to have them done before Thanksgiving because there's so much to do after Thanksgiving.  I usually have a special spot where I collect little gifts I want to give people.  But, this year we're going to send change of address/New Year's cards in January.  And I have no idea how fast I'm going to get things unpacked and sorted in our new house.  The plan is that we're going to move Dec. 10th.  There will be a lot to do just to get settled and enjoy as much as we can of the Christmas holiday.

I want to share a story with you about me and why giving gifts matters so much.  When I was a senior in college, I was living in an apartment and paying most of my bills--all except my car insurance.  I had taken extra credits all the way along so that I could graduate early and save my father some tuition.  I was living on $30/month for groceries.  I went home for Christmas.  My aunt had asked what I wanted for Christmas.  I don't remember what I said but I remember wanting a cookbook.   I opened a gift from my aunt.  It was a pair of trivets.  I had no idea what they were.  I behaved very poorly.  I cried.  It wasn't until years later that I was able to fully apologize to my aunt for my rude behavior.  You see, I had so little that Christmas.  I was working part-time, going to school full-time, scraping by.  It was like giving a homeless person a food processor when they longed for groceries.  My aunt didn't know this until years later because she thought I was well taken care of at the time and didn't know many details about my life then.

For a long time, my behavior that afternoon grieved me.  I realized how ungrateful I must have seemed to my family.  The fact that they didn't know or understand my financial situation didn't excuse me.  It also stuck with me and changed my heart.  I resolved to always be thankful for any gift that was given to me--even if I didn't need it or want it.  So, when I have received gifts I haven't needed I have always found another use for it or found another home for it where it was often needed and wanted.  I don't feel bad about regifting because I receive a gift in the process.  It gives me joy to give a gift to another that they want.

Several years later, I did have the opportunity to tell my aunt the full story and she forgave me and understood.   But, that event had forever changed me and changed how I view giving and receiving gifts.

Cynthia Heald wrote in one of her Bible studies that a gift isn't given unless it is received.  If we don't accept someone's offer to give us a gift--whether a tangible object or an act of service, then the giver doesn't truly get to "give".   It is not a gift until it is received.  Even before I read that, I had come to that conclusion.  Early in my marriage, we lived on very little.  God stretched everything we had in amazing ways.  I was the one who had little, so I searched for ways to give of what I had.  I made gifts and garage saled.  I wanted to thank others with a gift because they blessed me with their generosity.  That practice continued on even after we could afford more.  When the tables flipped, I wanted to be the one to give to others in the way that my friends had given to me.  Over that time, I found that I just love to give gifts. It's something I enjoy doing.

So, if you're one of my friends and you ever receive a gift from me, please know that I do not expect a gift in return.  I do simply love to give gifts to those in my life.  As for the trivets... they made it through about 12 moves before they were broken.  They were well loved and used.  I remember when one of them broke.  One of my daughters had dropped one of them.  I was sad, but also realized that my aunt knew how handy those trivets would be!

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