Gift giving

22 Dec

I grew up in a family where no one went overboard on gifts…seriously, on your birthday the best you could and still can expect from my Pops is that he will wish you a happy birthday. To this day I have only had 2 birthday parties, one at 8 because I was getting a sibling and the little bugger’s date of expected arrival was rather close to my birthday. So my Mom felt bad and said I could have a birthday party but no more than a few kids, then my brother arrived 4 days later. The next birthday party was at 19, when my ex-husband and mother in law felt bad that I had been deprived of birthday festivities and decided to throw me a party. By the way I was very pregnant, my son was born less than 2 weeks later.

As for Christmas, well I learned early on that Santa never brought anything I wanted. To be honest Santa pissed me off since most of what I got sucked as far as gifts and I only got a few. I know this sounds petty but its something that has lived with me all my life. I often think the deprivation I dealt with as a kid for years drove my compulsion to overspend up until a few years ago. On some level I was trying to recreate my childhood by giving myself things. Well, that is pretty much over since the greatest gift I can give myself these days is financially stability.

However I admit that I do like getting gifts and I enjoy giving gifts, it makes me happy to bring joy to someone and I love when I receive a well thought out gift. That said, I have noticed a growing trend towards giving donations in someone’s name instead of an actual gift. I gotta be honest, on one level I think this is a great idea but I also think it can create some hard feelings.

We Americans love our shit, really…we love consuming. Why else do we lose our collective minds during the holidays, granted my circle of folks I give to is small.  Once you are outside my inner circle any gift you are likely to receive from me is more apt to be a hand-made treat, mostly in the form of baked goods.

The thing with giving a donation in someone else’s name is that unless said person is one of these higher thinking folks, on some level people tend to feel cheated. “Hey Jane, instead of a gift I decided to make a gift to the ABC Non-profit in your name”…Um, ok. The thing is to give on this level you might almost want to discuss it with the person beforehand. If you think I am talking shit, NPR last week had a piece on this growing trend and it turns out most folks really do not like the idea of this.

On some level unless the organization is closely aligned to the person’s values, I think in a way you end up looking like you are shoving your beliefs down a person’s throat. Personally as someone who works for very little in the non-profit sector while I recognize the value of these gifts and generally they are doing a great deal of good, at the same time, I am not sure a donation as a gift is a great idea.

Now obviously as I strive not to spend a great deal, I am down with meaningful gifts and even ones that don’t cost money. Frankly I would be tickled pink if a friend said here is a coupon for 1 Saturday night of babysitting services, a gift like that is thoughtful and provided the giver was someone I trusted with my kid, an evening sans kid would indeed be a gift. Giving experiences is also nice…museum passes, gift certificate to a massage therapist. Hell, I doubt there are many people who wouldn’t like a nice massage. (I know…not everyone but I suspect a good deal would).

So while it may feel good to feed our conscience when giving a gift, call me old-fashioned but I think you have to think of how the gift will be received. Look, a donation to the local animal shelter is nice but if you are me, I’d say thanks but secretly think, that didn’t seem like a gift at all.

Anyway just a random Tuesday ramble…I suspect I will be heading to my holiday schedule soon since the boy child is home. So posting may be sporadic until the first of the year. Happy Holidays!

5 Responses to “Gift giving”

  1. pious December 22, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    It intresting that yo are writing about this. I just finishing discussing this with a friend on the phone. That this year I have directed the few people that give me gifts to send the money to a certain non-profit here in Portland . Thanks for saying it loud.

  2. 32B December 22, 2009 at 1:13 pm #

    As employees, we all put in money to give to our company owners but that money was donated to some charity in their name as a gift. When I heard where the money was going I thought, “will they want that instead of an actual gift??” but it seems that’s a tradition. I am not sure if it’s just Corporate America but I’d think the same thing…donating to a charity for me is not a gift. All I got was a piece of paper saying where my money went. Boo!

  3. Dee December 23, 2009 at 12:55 am #

    I agree with you. The gift is for the receiver, not the giver. I don’t have many people to buy for, but I really think about what they would like versus what *I’d* like to give them!

  4. Amy December 24, 2009 at 6:09 pm #

    Hmm. I think, I hope anyway, that it can be done well and graciously. For instance, we have a large gathering her on Boxing Day (the 26th), friends included and though we’d love to make and give gifts to everyone, we simply can’t. On a few occasions, we’ve given each family a card explaining a purchase of an animal in their name, from Heifer International. (For isntance, the friends that have rabbits, gave rabbits), etc. At the same time, we were hosting everyone, feeding everyone, as our gift to them all. We have also given to Heifer International in our children’s names–and our kids were gratified to know that they had helped some other family find a way to have a decent and sustainable income/life.

  5. blackgirlinmaine December 24, 2009 at 7:38 pm #

    Amy, what you described sounds fine especially where you are hosting others. After all a day of festivties and eats is a gift in and of itself. I think it becomes more of an issue of someone sent you a letter or card saying a gift has been made in your name to the XYZ organization and it may not even be something the person cares about.

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