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Lessons From A Bad Gift Giver

As much as I love Christmastime for the religious significance, decorations, music, and good cheer, I dread the everywhere-you-look (and listen) emphasis on gifts. I am not opposed to giving or receiving gifts, but the hustle and bustle is a constant reminder that I am a “bad” gift giver. You see, I believe the entire population can be divided into two categories – good or bad gift givers. A REALLY bad gift giver – the one who hastily selects their gifts from the shelves of 7-Eleven on Christmas Eve –  is on the list of the most repugnant holiday offenders along with the one who brings fruitcake to the party, the one who wears ugly Christmas sweaters (not in jest), and the mall Santa who cannot even grow a real beard. My self-given label of bad gift giver does not mean I give undesirable gifts, it just means I do not enjoy the shopping experience and I rarely feel like I have accomplished something meaningful with my resources.

While money is sometimes a factor in determining what constitutes “good” and “bad” where gifts are concerned, I would argue that being a great gift giver has less to do with financial means than a general confidence in the process of developing “outside the box” ideas. Further, a great gift giver has the endurance to shop until they’ve met their uncompromised shopping goals. These are the people who set their alarm clocks for an indecently early hour on the Friday after Thanksgiving, put on their most comfortable outfit, gather their supplies (two bottles of water, Band-Aids, Advil, and a 5-Hour Energy shot) and head out to finish their Christmas shopping while it’s still dark outside. These people are highly admirable and just as highly annoying.

I have neither great ideas, nor shopping endurance. Sure I can ask people I care for what they would like, go out and purchase these items, and call it a day. No sweat. These purchases, and the gift presentations that follow, however, lack the element of surprise good gift givers take for granted. I end up feeling like I should have handed over a wad of bills and let my loved ones shop their own lists. Why not cut out the middle man?

Surely there’s far more to being a good gift giver than the ability to neurotically circle parking lots for the closest space or grab the last limited edition Mario Brothers Wii game (or whatever is this year’s premium gift). I would argue that some of the best gifts are comprised of words and deeds. For me, the gift of my time, talents, compassion, or encouragement is a way to share something far more meaningful than anything that can be purchased or wrapped.

While improving my tangible gift-giving skills is likely a lost cause, I’ve made a personal commitment over the last year to become better at attending to the needs of others. That said, I’ve learned that desire to do something does not always lead to definitive or completely selfless action. Sometimes I look at my calendar on Thursdays and think about all the ways I would rather spend my time than reading with my reading buddies at Edwards Elementary. Continue reading Lessons From A Bad Gift Giver