Me: ‘Yeah, I think she’ll love it.’
Hubby: ‘But it’s playdough. Don’t you think that’s a little cheap?’
We went to a birthday party on the weekend. The special girl was turning two. And what do two-year olds love? Playdough! So I made her up a batch of playdough, added some lemon essence and some glitter, attached a star cutter and was done. I was really happy with the gift. But then my husband got me thinking. Is it cheap to give someone something which cost next to nothing? Will the gift be accepted and appreciated?
We have certain expectations towards gift-giving, don’t we? And particularly with Christmas coming up, it is easy to get caught up in obligatory gift giving – I need to get something for Aunt May and the kids next door and the teachers at school and the neighbours and everyone whose coming to lunch…. and then there is the expectation that you’ll (or your kids will) get something from each person. And so, so much stuff is bought and wrapped. It’s all too much. And I don’t think that is what gift-giving, at birthdays or at Christmas, should be about.
Last Christmas I asked my mum to collect a basket of pinecones for the kids for Christmas. She couldn’t do it. Not that she couldn’t physically do it, she lives opposite a park filled with pinecones, she couldn’t bring herself to give them only pinecones that she had collected ‘off the ground’. ‘Oh Kate, that’s not a good enough present!’
Why wasn’t that a good enough present? Because she didn’t spend any money? What about thought, and love and effort? Or what about relieving ourselves of the sense of obligation in the first place? What’s wrong with a hug or a letter or spending deep quality time together?
This is what gift-giving should be about. Not about the stuff, or how much money was spent, or not spent, but the thought and the effort and love behind the gift. And that gift may not be something you unwrap, it may be something you do together, or something you write or something you say. Or it may just be a hug which says, I am so glad you are here with me today.
I know my friend appreciated the gift. And I sure hope her little daughter enjoys playing with it.
I just hope as Christmas draws ever closer, that my children receive less presents and more phone calls, more hugs, more kisses and more time spent together, surrounded by those who love them. That is a gift. And that is enough.