Make better gifts! Evolve gifts making.
And so it is Christmas (soon). As me and the Lady of the manor are considering the presents list, I can’t shake a grinch-like-feeling. It is the Jolly Spirit of Social Pressured Purchasing and Exchanging of More and More Stuff. As I am looking forward to that next PeeJay set (and the money envelope we’ll surely receive from grandma) allow me to share a festive outlook on the possible evolution of gifts making.
What is really bothering me?
It’s an honest question, that I’ve been asking myself. It happens sometimes that my instincts call out something as not-quite-jolly. But it’s not often that it takes me quite long to reason out the cause.
I have personally received gifts that only stood to enforce the reality of not being understood. Of not being accepted for who I really am. Or simply … awkwardness. I have received emotion trough that which was given me. Just not positive emotion. I would give back a lot of what I have received in exchange for the opportunity to take my wife out for dinner while knowing the kids are safe and happy. Well, either that or more pijamas!
The answer I have now has to do with the fact that too many people around me are emotionally ignorant. It bothers me to see people unaware and unable to handle their emotions, let alone the emotions of those around them. These people often prefer to cling to superficial human interaction constructs. Which means, most of the time, rule sets, “social norms”. Sometimes I have no idea who came up with them. Other times it’s blatantly clear that they serve consumerism and could be even coined as effective marketing. All these rules map a complex network of Social Pressure influences that further prevent one from ever needing to understand emotion in order to function in a socially adequate way.
What does that have to do with gifts!?
A lot. And honestly I expect there are two kinds of people:
- those that already got the point;
- those that won’t get it even if I would struggle to explain.
Associating the ritual gift making of physical goods (Christmas, Easter, Birthday, Name-day, etc) with good-will is superficial. It puts a price tag on good-will, it makes it a commodity. Dare I say, it’s not far from a light form of bribery.
Ok Grinch, I get it, what do you suggest?
I believe that we will always search for ways in which to boost the way we matter to someone. Your family, your friends, that boy/girl you want to ask out, they all are valid “targets” for gifts. I wholeheartedly support that. What would make it as it should be is:
- Decouple the concept of gift making from the physical realm and tie it to the emotional. When you give a gift you are looking for an emotional response. The best gifts are those that illicit a great outburst of emotion. Whether it’s joy or surprise, in the one giving or the one receiving, it’s not directly related to the “thing” but to the relationship impact.
- Start with the end in mind and first ask yourself “what emotion do I wish to convey?”. Then ask yourself if it’s an object you are looking for, as emotion carrier. Cause maybe it’s a hug. Or the recounting of a tale from “back then when we were younger” over a mug of something steamy. Or maybe … a confession.
- Consider gifting experiences. In these times of grown-uppery, a nice quiet dinner with friends goes a long way. Gifting a bottle of wine is one thing, gifting the experience of enjoying it in meaningful company is quite another.
- Whenever possible, give gifts outside of the pre-set rituals. Give these gifts because they have meaning, because you found something that really connects with them. Not because you have to, for fear you’d be judged by the almighty Social Pressure.
Bottom line: you can change something right now
I’ve suggested to my friends that we give up the old habits on our birthdays. The norm was that we would go out and the birthday-person was covering the bill while everyone else bought a present (which sometimes missed the mark). We experimented with something else: the birthday-person having to do nothing except enjoy, while everyone else prepared and paid for an experience. So far it was mostly dinner and drinks. There is room for improvement. We might have skipped Cristi (sorry, we need to make up for it :|) But overall I believe we made progress.
I’m also currently emailing people, suggesting that we make Christmas simply about time spent together for the adults. Kids still enjoy the hoarding of stuff (that they get bored of rather soon). May they enjoy it while they can. I’d like to teach them to, in turn, make gifts of what they don’t use anymore. There is room for improvement. I forgot to take the toy Mihail gave me to the office, for the action we’re doing, for kids that Santa sometimes misses.
There are people in this world that could really use things (or money) as gifts. Should you feel inclined to give more, give to them, in the name of someone you wish to honour.
And if you haven’t already, watch the story of stuff.
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So, what do you think about it!?