Compassionate Gift Giving
The anticipation starts to build when you place the perfectly wrapped present into your loved one’s hand. They slowly unravel the ribbon, taking care to open the package without ripping it. You can see in their eyes, the very moment they realize what it contained, warmth radiates. You feel connected. A momentary expression of love communicated clearly. Yet giving someone an object or experience they cherish is a challenging task. We spend weeks agonizing over our choices. We visit online stores then browse local shops. We balance gifts based upon needs versus wants. We ask ourselves if we should buy them a material object or an experience. With so much choice, how do we choose?
Last year for the holidays I tried a new diet. I ate turkey at thanksgiving and my aunt’s sweet potato casserole at christmas. The diet had nothing to do with food. I limited purchases from online stores. Finding gifts became much more challenging. For some people I had a strong idea of what I wanted to give them and it was easy to plan a trip to the store. For those more elusive receivers, I had to keep my eyes open everywhere I went. I spent time examining different categories of our relationship. I had to ask shop owners for their expert advice. Along the way I made friends and made purchases in unexpected places. After thinking deeply about the individual I felt closer and more connected with them. I even had a few funny shopping stories to share with the gift. I researched the impact of shopping locally and was amazed by the effect we can have. I was supporting wonderful people inside my own community.
The bulk of my shopping took place during my new favorite purchasing holiday: Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday (SBS) was created to help brick and mortar businesses and local communities after the 2008 recession. Last year 112 million consumers participated in SBS, a 12% increase from 2015. We exited the recession years ago. Why is this event getting larger every year? While people continue to shop more online, consumers have also been grappling with the social and environmental toll of unethical business. For every dollar spent supporting a local business, more money is returned to that community compared to a national or global chain. We can see local regions flourish around small business sectors. Take a look at St. Louis’ own Cherokee District. According to the Andersonville Study of Retail Economics, local business generates 70% more local economic activity per square foot than big box retail. As cities become more crowded and expensive, supporting local artisans can provide stability to a community, with less real estate being occupied in the process. Finally, when we know the people who make and sell us our goods and gifts we are able to support ethics with which we agree.
The Perfect Gift
I love being barefoot. I am barefoot as much as possible. Unfortunately there are times when I am forced to wear shoes. The only way I will (begrudgingly) agree is when I am wearing comfortable socks. I think of myself as a sock connoisseur. All of my “everyday” socks are black and the same brand, I have a collection of warm and colorful wool socks accumulated for winter, and a few sensual silk pairs for dressing up. I do not need more socks, yet socks remain a favorite gift I receive. With socks, as any other item we may receive, there are styles that are not useful. Socks that are decorative are uncomfortable to wear, and only serve to clutter my dresser. I do not need someone to purchase my everyday utility socks, I have already provided those for myself and it would be impossible for someone to know the exact type I buy. But, I received a wonderful pair of wool socks from E+W, which were by far the best sock gift I've received. I received a wonderful pair of wool socks from East + West. They were a pair I would never buy for myself. They were more expensive than my typical purchase and I usually don't go out of my way for a one item purchase. Nevertheless, I love them. I know my friend went out of his way into a local shop and purchased a useful yet luxury item for me. I cherish that pair of socks and experience a special joy every time l wear them. That experience illustrated for me how to be a better gift giver.
Many of us naturally live with clutter. We battle with clutter and it often feels insurmountable. When we give gifts to others we don’t want to burden them with objects that add to their battle with clutter. That leads many of us to consider buying gifts that fit a predetermined role in the individual's life. We attempt to hedge our bets, buying people things they need instead of what we think they want. We do not actually want to give others what they, need as gifts, often times we want to give a gift that is useful to the person we love. For a gift to be useful it does not have to be something a person needs. When we give gifts that only fulfill a need we feel sad. We feel we are not truly in the spirit of gift giving. When we give gifts that are useful we feel fulfilled. The receivers of the gifts feel nurtured.
We must listen to our loved ones and notice their patterns. If you investigate how they provide for themselves and then you can seek luxurious forms of items and experiences they enjoy. We have the ability provide a deeper, richer experience to their life. We show them we love how they care for themselves. We care about what they love.
Returning to the warmth and connection you feel when giving the perfect present I mentioned earlier: How long does that glow last? Unfortunately usually that day, or maybe a week. Objects quickly integrate into our lives. Tangible items seem to represent permanence but after after less than a year and only a handful of times wearing them, my beloved socks have slowly begun to become normal. I fear one day soon they will be “just another pair of socks.” Fortunately, some gifts keep giving. The secret to continued bliss is to give an experience.
Experiences are shared and last longer in our hearts and minds. An experience gets to be planned. We give space for the person to explore themselves. We also give the gift of a memory. It adds another layer of joy if we choose to join them in the experience. If you gave your loved one a new watch, turned around and bought yourself the same one, you take away how special the gift feels. Fortunately when we give experiences, we can often give ourselves the same gift without guilt! Sharing the outing will make it even more enjoyable of a gift. We get the benefit of being involved in all aspects of the thing we gave, including making time and helping plan. It it exhilarating to anticipate the event to come. We bask in the adventure together. Being present with your loved ones and seeing them in new ways will grow your love for one another. The memory of your togetherness becomes a celebration of love.
Fortunately, gift giving is a skill we can practice and learn. Noticing our loved ones' habits and taking the time to give thoughtfully creates a closer connection. When we purchase with intention and purchase locally, we add an even more valuable experience. When we learn how to give gifts that satisfy their wants while still being useful we add joy to their life. For those special times we give experiences, we give moments of time and memory that lasts.
We at Third Wave Magazine wish for you happy holidays this year with fulfilling exchanges and quality time with your family.