Think Outside the Gift Box

It’s holiday time, the time of year Made for TV movies tell us we’re supposed to be happy and appreciate each other and commercials tell us this can only happen if we buy them THIS (whatever the commercial is selling.)

Standing in line at the grocery store, I overheard two guys moaning about buying Christmas presents.

“Oh, man, I don’t know what to get her. My sister said she would pick something up when she’s out shopping. I said fine, I don’t know what to buy…”
“Man, do what I do. Gift cards for everybody. Easy, fast, can’t go wrong.”
I remembered a boyfriend I had (briefly) who whined the same way the one and only Christmas I shared with him. He wanted me to go with him to pick out my Christmas present. I said NO and he ended up getting me a gift card. A generic gift card at the mall. Because I have better raising, I thanked him and kissed his cheek. He opened his gift from me, a hand- held drum I had painted a dragon on. He used to be a drummer and loved to talk about his band days. The drum was something he could play if he felt like it and hang on his wall the rest of the time. He loved my art, and I thought it was a great way to weave the two together. He was actually shocked that I had “gone to so much trouble.” I didn’t think it was trouble. I wanted to show him how much I cared. He still has the drum, but I doubt he tells his new girlfriends where he got it.

My point is, think about the reason for the gifts you’re giving. If you really don’t know what to get your girlfriend, you need to start paying better attention. OK, I’m easy to get presents for, I’ll admit. I write, read, make art, love the outdoors-in other words my personality is obvious. The fact that my ex-boyfriend didn’t know what to get me told me he didn’t care that much. Think about it. He could have gotten a gift card to the bookstore, the art supply store…anything but the mall, for goodness’ sake. I had gone shopping there with him once to get his mother something for Mother’s Day (right, I was supposed to figure this out for him and I hadn’t even met his mother yet…) and I told him then I didn’t like malls. We NEVER went to the mall.

No, this isn’t a rant about that boyfriend. It’s about thinking about the people in your life. Listening, watching, thinking- outside the gift box.

Anything can be a present. Presents are symbols of our relationship with that person. If it’s the girl at the convenience store who always has a bright smile when you stop in for 6AM coffee and helps you get a better start on the day, then give her a holiday card with $10 in it. She can spend it where she wants. She doesn’t make any money (I know, I used to do that work) so money is something she values and needs. Don’t wimp out with a gift card. That’s a sissy way of saying I want to give you money but I can’t be honest about it. She needs money. Give her money.

When I hear guys complaining that they don’t know what to give their girlfriend/wife I want to shout, “Listen to her!” Does she talk about clothes, movies, pop culture? Give her subscription to a classy fashion magazine (not any of those horrible paparazzi rags-boycott those things.) Magazine subscriptions are a surprise and a swell reminder of how you really thought about her. There are great magazines out there for guys too, girls.

If your mother loves to cook, give her something that reflects that. Go into the kitchen department of any major store, or any of the specialty kitchen stores that have popped up all over, and find something interesting she probably wouldn’t buy herself. Ask the staff for suggestions.

Listen to the people in your life. LISTEN. It’s not that hard, but it does take effort. And that’s what I’m talking about. Take the effort to let the people you care about know you care about them. That’s what this holiday is for, I don’t care what religion you are. Or aren’t.

What’s the old James Taylor tune? “Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel.”

Think outside the gift box. Think inside your own heart. Give presents to the people who matter in your life (remember the convenience store clerk? She matters. The guy at work who annoys you with his music doesn’t) and give a cheerful nod and smile to everyone else. You don’t have to spend buckets of money on people. Really. If you pay attention to the people who matter, you will find ways to show them you love them. And that matters more than anything.

Think outside the gift box.

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