Christmas Gift Giving

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 lightly.
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 caroling.
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 of Christmas.
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 little thought.
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 statement.
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.