How much do you spend on gifts in a year? Add it up. I think your knees will buckle. There was a time when a store bought gift was the exception and a homemade gift – a handmade quilt or some of Pappy’s corn likker – was the norm. These days, we run to the mall and, unfortunately, many gifts end up in the recipient’s next garage sale because, frankly, they’re hideous. I don’t think we do this because we love each other less than people did in the old days. I just think that we have bought into the idea that a new and expensive item is somehow a more loving gift.
This reminds me of a friend’s story about helping her father-in-law make funeral arrangements for her deceased mother-in-law. The father-in-law was devastated after caring for his wife through years of Alzheimer’s. The sales person at the funeral home had the nerve to tell him that the amount a family spends on the casket is an indication of how much they loved the departed. My friend set the slime-ball straight, but the core of his message is not uncommon. We hear it in advertising for children’s toys, Internet providers, electronics, you name it.
But if a gift is intended to be an expression of love from one person to another, why not take the time to understand what makes the recipient feel loved?
In his book, The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman explains that each of us expresses love and likes to receive love in different ways. Here’s a tip; only one of the five love languages involves a tangible gift. And with a little creativity, even the most thoughtful tangible gift can be inexpensive or free.
Does this sound familiar? “All I want for my birthday is for you to rub my feet for one hour”. Or, “All I want for Mother’s Day is a day all to myself.” But often what these people receive instead, from well-intentioned loved ones, an over the top surprise party or a way too sparkly bracelet they must now wear out of guilt. And here’s the kicker; if they don’t have fun at the party or gush with excitement over the ugly bracelet – they seem ungrateful.
So, to avoid this frustration, and the wasted expense, have an honest conversation with your loved ones about what makes each of you feel loved. And remember to listen and honor what they say. You may realize that the majority of you don’t want tangible gifts at all. Sharing a favorite home-cooked meal, a family day of hiking, a trip, or a loving letter may be the most appreciated expressions of love you can give or receive. This exercise can strengthen relationships and save time and money as well.
My husband and I don’t regularly exchange gifts. As soon as we realized that we both hated the whole process, we stopped. Now, we just talk about what we want to do on special occasions – sometimes nothing at all – and that’s it. No shopping!
Here are three thoughtful gift ideas. See if any of these may make someone you know feel loved.
Baby Shower Gift: A co-worker gave me this great idea. I collected and saved rain water from my sister’s wedding day last year. For her baby shower last week, I poured the water into a pretty glass bottle that belonged to our mother and gave it to her for her baby’s christening. (I was fortunate that my sister got pregnant soon after her wedding or I’m certain I would’ve eventually forgotten that I had collected the rain water at all.)
Gift for Any Occasion: For Christmas one year my mother gave me a few books that she had enjoyed and wanted to share with me. She wrote a personal note to me inside each book about why they made her think of me.
Birthday Gift: For my father’s 60th birthday everyone prepared ahead of time to read aloud special memories they shared with him. It was a meaningful day with equal amounts of and laughter and tears.
Gift for Any Occasion: For a wedding gift, a friend gave us a small photo album full of pictures from trips the four of us had taken together with a thoughtful note beautifully written on the inside.
Gift for Any Occasion: I gave away a rose gold ring that I loved but never wore. My cousin loves it and makes it a point to wear it when we get together. Now we both get to enjoy it.
Take the time to critically evaluate the gifts that you have given in the past and the reasons why you gave them and you’ll likely find that they weren’t expressing the love that you wanted them to. What you will find, however, is that it is often simple things that do.
Image courtesy of marie-ll