For gifts: Thought trumps money

By: Louis De Gruy – Opinions Editor

The earliest Christmas memory I have begins at my aunt’s house when I was three years old. The family had finished sorting presents, and I realized with delight that the largest gift box (it was taller than me at the time) had my name on it. I impatiently waited for the family videographers (my dad and granddad) to ready themselves and dove into the huge box first. As I removed each scrap of wrapping, my excitement grew. When the box opened, I became the proud owner of a Little Tikes indoor slide. I didn’t even bother trying to open the other presents, I just kept playing on the slide for the rest of the evening.

I consider myself lucky to be able to have a handful of vivid memories of tearing off wrapping paper to find the one thing that was exactly what I wanted for Christmas. Though that one specific gift I desired evolved each year, the gift I, and most other children, despised receiving came in the form of sweaters, pants and socks.

Now that I’m older, I can appreciate the offering of clothing, not as a mean-spirited attempt to deprive 10-year-old me of Legos and BB guns, but as a thoughtful gesture to provide something practical. However, as the years have progressed, I’ve gotten the impression from my family that I’ve somehow become “easier to buy for,” meaning that I only receive cash or gift cards.

As the years have progressed, I’ve enjoyed taking on the challenge of seeking out gifts that my relatives will enjoy. However, as my younger cousins have entered adolescence, I’ve found myself finding it more and more tempting to simply order a few gift cards, make a trip to Hallmark for a clever card or two and call it a day. I’m not sure if that’s the way gift-giving should be done.

Consider this: if a close friend of yours has a birthday or special anniversary coming up, I doubt that all you’re going to do for them is buy a card and write them a check, right? Sure, the money would be nice to receive, but gift-giving is about more than just the gift itself. I am a firm believer in the idea “it’s the thought that counts” when planning on doing something nice for another person (mainly because every surprise party I’ve planned has failed in one way or another, but that’s another story).

If we’re willing to go beyond a cash settlement as acknowledgment of a special event for our friends, then shouldn’t we be motivated to do the same for our family? I know that the holidays are over, but the year is filled with birthdays, graduations and weddings.  I’ll make a guess and say that most of us have at least one relative middle-school aged or older, and it would be so easy to simply buy them a gift card or stuff an envelope with cash and call it a day when these events roll around. But, if we want to have a positive effect on the world, we shouldn’t let ourselves off that easy.

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