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Dec 18, 2010

True Gifts

It is Christmas time and the time of gift exchanges. For some it is an opportunity to take a moment to express the love and appreciation they have for those in their lives. For others it becomes more of a social obligation. This time of year often makes me consider the motivation behind our gift-giving.
While many do take the time to find the expression or token that fits to the individual, there is a stigma which is carried in the air. Often the gift-giving becomes an unspoken and subtle competition. Sadly, many gifs this season will not be given freely, but there will be spider-web strings attached, where the giver hopes to be buying something. I say “spider-web” because unlike the classic “strings attached” idiom, this is more of a clandestine expectation akin to brown-nosing the boss, incentivizing the reciprocation of feelings, or emotional blackmail of a child’s behavior.
“Did he really just say that?” some readers will probably say. Yes, yes I did. And I think it happens more often than we would like to admit.
Giving gifts is wonderful. I am not discouraging this tradition at all. However, I would ask that as you do so, please be sure your heart is in the proper place. I’ve had to do so this year especially when deciding what to get for a few particular people in my life.
This is especially true when so many of my friends don’t really have “needs” they can’t or don’t fulfill on their own. This doesn’t discount the special tokens that spark personal memories of a shared trip or common interest. A replacement for something dear that was lost or other emotional memorials express the bonds of friendship and love.
However, sometimes there just hasn’t been “a moment” over the past year – and my friend doesn’t really need anything. At these times, I would like to suggest that exchanging giving to a charity in the other person’s name, something you know he or she supports. For the past three years, I’ve been asking my friends to donate to the Rwanda Clean Water Project, if they can’t think of an appropriate gift. Also, I tell family that if they want to give me money, know that it will be turned around and sent to this charity. It’s just what I do for the Holidays.
I hope you will consider doing something similar. Gift-giving is not bad; however, Americans spend over four-hundred billion dollars on Holiday gifts for one another. If even 10% are poorly motivated or “unneeded” – that could be forty billion dollars that would be given for charitable means. I just ask that you think about it.