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The Art of Generosity

My wife loves to give gifts, especially to our children.  In my opinion, we should go cheap, while we can clearly get away with it. At this age, they easily break 20% of the toys they get within the first week… For instance, my son got a drone for his 6th birthday (thanks Aunt Leah for the age-appropriate gift).  The second day, one of the neighbor kids asked him if they could have a turn flying it and promptly landed it on the highest branch of a tall oak in our yard.  My son’s response included many tears and suggestions to cut the tree down.  Instead, I formed an ill-fated retrieval mission that ended in a football, soccer ball, and a hammer attached to a rope stuck in the tree.

Gift-giving and its original intent

I’m definitely not faulting my sister for the drone purchase; she loves my kids and loves to spoil them. And in terms of gifts, my initial bend of going cheap also isn’t the definitive way. That leaves me with this question: has our idea of gift-giving shifted from its original intent? Giving a gift used to tell a story about the relationship between the parties of the exchange. However, it seems that in some ways, gift-giving has shifted, becoming about one of two things:

  1. the grandness of the gift, or
  2. getting a cheap gift just to say we got one.

Our pastor once said that the gift reflects both the gift-giver and the gift recipient. For example, if you gave someone workout attire, that most-likely says one of two things: they either love working out or should start doing so. In other words, in giving the workout clothes, you’re paying attention to the recipient’s preferences. But nowadays, it seems like we simply request a list of what someone wants and either try to buy the biggest thing that we can afford or look for the thing that will cost us the least.

Gift-giving is an art

I can’t be alone in this thinking—I don’t think that I should hand someone a list of things that I want so that they can go buy it for me (or my kids).  When I do that, I feel like I’m giving them an errand to run where they have to spend their own money. Compounding this thought, if I gave my wife a wish list and she spent our money to buy me what I want, it seems like I could just cut out the middle man. I love Christmas, birthdays, and any other celebrations that we give to one another, but I don’t love what we, as a society, have made it into.  It can be a pressure cooker of expectations for both parties involved in the gift exchange.

I’m not saying that meaningful gifts have to be cheap and made of macaroni art.  My wife’s wedding ring is not made of paste and Popsicle sticks; rather, it is a gift that we both hold in high regard that says something about both of us.  So, how can we tell a story about our family members and friends this holiday season? Especially when the world seems to need a little extra love right now, we need gifts that would pierce the heart of who we are together.  We’ve been separated by shutdowns, sickness, political stances, and more.  What would highlight what we see and love about the ones closest to us?  We’re not trying to look at gift-giving as an expense (like me), but also not trying to blow up our budgets for shock and awe.  There is an art to generosity and it’s not dictated by compulsion or obligation, but rather cheerfulness and care.

November 2020

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