Gifts – The Better Way

Gifts – not sure how I feel about them.

There’s a wonderful saying in Mandarin – 施比受有福 (shī bǐ shòu yǒu fú) It is better to give than to receive. Yes, we have that saying in English as well – what do you know? And it’s probably likely that an analogous saying exists in many other countries around the world – it’s better to give than to receive. And when we give of ourselves, we open ourselves, I believe, to our highest spirit. It can be a mark of compassion, selflessness, and love.

Can be.

I say ‘can be’ here because I it is my belief that the United States (and likely most of Humanity, though I cannot say for certain here) has gotten away from the meaning of ‘giving.’ Either that or (perhaps the most-likely of possibilities), the corporations have taken that aspect of our humanness and exploited the heck out of it.

With every holiday that comes around, there is a sign, and advertisement, a company representative, telling us not to forget about: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day, Labor Day…and any other FILL-IN-THE-BLANK holiday. There’s a holiday for everything out there, isn’t there.

Go online right now and see how many holidays are in the United States. First look up how many ‘official’ holidays there are, and then look up how many ‘unofficial’ holidays there are. The number, as you will see, is sickening.

Corporations love to tell us not to forget.

Ironically, what it seems we have forgotten is the fact gifts are: a.) not required, and b.) do not have to be material.

Once upon a time, gifts were not so easily procured. One was unable to simply drive down the street, walk into a Wal-Mart and sift through a microcosm of aisles to find the (near) perfect combination of resources that would lift the spirits of a close friend. It used to be that many gifts were made by hand, thereby rendering the maker the necessitous ability to become, to some degree, an artisan of sorts. It would take time, effort, patience, and love.

Yet we’ve become slothful. Lazy. Inert. We have come to a point in our lives in which is so much easier to simply go online, spend a few minutes to see what is out there within the category of our target’s hobbies/interests, pay with a credit card, and be done with it. And we mean those last four words – be done with it.

We really don’t want to spend too terribly much of our free time engaged in this activity in which we’re trying to make someone else happy. We really don’t. We do, however, want to be done with it.

Well, I’d like to offer a suggestion or two regarding gift-giving. I’ll start by telling you that I’m not intending to altar your habits here; some of you love it and will not stop, and others, on the opposite extreme, will never start.

Here are three simple alternatives to purchasing a gift. They each cost much less, and are worth much more.

A Phone Call-

We’ve become a nation that talks without talking. We can blurb/Tweet/Blog (*present company included)/post all day long, but we just don’t want to spend time on the telephone. How fucking prissy and depressing is that? We are losing our humanity one drop at a time…which some are okay with, and others are not. My own feelings on the matter will remain my own. But giving someone a phone call, even if just to talk for five or ten minutes will change that person’s day, even if you don’t get through. It says that you have not only thought about that person, but you have put energy in to thinking about that person – so much so that you wanted to connect to that person and feel again close to them. Phone calls do wonders.

A Letter –

When was the last time you wrote a letter? Not an e-mail – a letter by hand. As a nation, as a people, we just don’t write things down any more. I am a teacher and getting students merely to take notes with a pen and a sheet of paper is almost like asking them to work overtime. That’s if they even have a writing utensil and paper on them.

Try it. Write a letter to the person to wish them a happy birthday, to tell them you’re thinking about them, to wish them well, etc. It means more in the fifteen or twenty minutes it takes to write a letter than the two minutes it takes to write an e-mail. Write a letter, write a poem, write something that shows the person they mean enough to you to do something that takes that much time.


Cooking – the number of people who can do it is staggering. Read that again; I’m not saying take the person out to dinner. I’m saying cook – cook for that person. Prepare a proper meal for that person. You can tell me all day long that you don’t know how (“I don’t know how to cook!” Yeah, maybe. But how do you get better? You do it! You learn. And finally, one day, you are Able). Prepare the full meal. What do they like to have for an appetizer, an entrée, and dessert? How can you make this person’s dinner memorable? Even if you totally screw it up, it’s memorable, and it shows that you were willing to take the time to learn, and to practice, and even to fail, so that this person would be happy.

Gifts do not have to be about money? Life itself is a gift, spend some time with someone you care about and share life with that person.


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