In good gift-giving, it
really is the thought that counts
By Sam Johnson
There are few things in life
more challenging and totally taxing than shopping for gifts at Christmas time.
Anyone who ventured out on "Black
Friday" can tell you this.
What else so thoroughly tests a person's
patience, physical and mental endurance?
What else so completely measures one's
creativity and sensitivity to others?
To tell you the truth, I have a real
love-hate attitude about Christmas shopping.
On the one hand, I truly love the cerebral
side of gift giving -- trying to figure out exactly the right gifts for family
and friends; gifts they will actually delight in.
On the other hand, I totally detest the
physical folly of trying to find those gifts -- the traffic-jamming,
store-searching, crowd-crushing, and line-waiting part of it. (Having
participated in these activities, I've come to the conclusion that the shopping
mall is appropriately named, but misspelled. It should be shopping MAUL!)
Many believe gift-giving to be one of the
true joys of Christmas.
I think they are right, but only half
right. The real joy, it seems to me, comes from giving "the right
gift," one that is unexpected, a surprise that truly delights the person
and becomes a thing to cherish or enjoy.
The real "Christmas Challenge"
is found in the selection of the gift, not in the actual purchase of it.
To do this successfully requires extra
effort. Gift giving by itself is almost meaningless unless there is some
thought and feeling behind it.
Most say, "It's the thought that
counts." And they are right. But too often this becomes an excuse for
giving a poorly or hastily purchased gift.
How often have we opened a present only to
find the most mundane or inappropriate thing picked up at the last minute
because the person "just couldn't think of anything else."
And the gift-giver, knowing it was a poor
idea, smiles sheepishly, shrugs a little, and says, "Well, it's the
thought that counts."
There is no thought or feeling at all
behind such gifts. They are meaningless.
What a poor excuse for laziness.
Being a good gift-giver is no easy task, to be
sure, but neither is it impossible. It requires only a little forethought and
sensitivity to the person receiving the gift. It is a task not to be taken
Good gift-givers are attentive to the needs
and wants of the person they are giving the gift to. They listen and take note
when that person says "I sure could use..." or "I really
need..." or "I wish I had...."
The good gift-giver learns, without asking
directly, what the gift receiver really needs, or would like, and selects a
thoughtful gift accordingly.
NOTE: It is not the amount of money spent,
but the amount of thought and time put into the selection of the gift that
makes one a successful gift-giver.
And that, I'm afraid, is part of the
reason why the art of gift-giving is becoming a lost art, and is placed on the
list of Endangered Christmas Customs along with the hayride and community
People just don't take the time, or aren't
willing to make the time, needed to be good gift-givers.
Instead, they resort to one or more
of these "get gift quick" schemes:
(a) "Tell me what you
want for Christmas,
(b) "Make a list of the
things you want and I'll see what I can do,"
(c) "Circle what you
want in the sales catalogs and I'll check them out later."
Then they rush headlong into the throng of
mad shoppers to try and find the things on their "gift list."
They may indeed end up getting that person
what he wants, but there is little or no surprise involved in the process. In
fact, the receiver practically expects to get one of the gifts they listed, so
it becomes no big deal. As a result, they have both succumbed to the crass
commercialism that eats away at the true spirit of gift-giving and at the very heart
There is really no special art or talent
to being a good gift-giver. Anybody and everybody can be one. All it takes is a
Ask yourself, what will delight this
person? What will "bring the kid out" in him or her? What is it they
look at in stores but never buy for themselves? What are the things they always
buy for themselves? What things are important to them? What are the things they
always talk about?
Giving the right gift is important, for
when you give a gift, you are sending a message; you are making a personal
When you give a gift with some thought
behind it, you are saying "I know who you are. I know what things you
like. I know what makes you happy, and I care about you."
A gift given with little or no thought
behind it sends a different message.
This is the true "Christmas
Challenge." This is what gift-giving is all about.
It IS the thought that counts.