Gift giving

I grew up in a family where no one went overboard on gifts…seriously, on your birthday the best you could and still can expect from my Pops is that he will wish you a happy birthday. To this day I have only had 2 birthday parties, one at 8 because I was getting a sibling and the little bugger’s date of expected arrival was rather close to my birthday. So my Mom felt bad and said I could have a birthday party but no more than a few kids, then my brother arrived 4 days later. The next birthday party was at 19, when my ex-husband and mother in law felt bad that I had been deprived of birthday festivities and decided to throw me a party. By the way I was very pregnant, my son was born less than 2 weeks later.

As for Christmas, well I learned early on that Santa never brought anything I wanted. To be honest Santa pissed me off since most of what I got sucked as far as gifts and I only got a few. I know this sounds petty but its something that has lived with me all my life. I often think the deprivation I dealt with as a kid for years drove my compulsion to overspend up until a few years ago. On some level I was trying to recreate my childhood by giving myself things. Well, that is pretty much over since the greatest gift I can give myself these days is financially stability.

However I admit that I do like getting gifts and I enjoy giving gifts, it makes me happy to bring joy to someone and I love when I receive a well thought out gift. That said, I have noticed a growing trend towards giving donations in someone’s name instead of an actual gift. I gotta be honest, on one level I think this is a great idea but I also think it can create some hard feelings.

We Americans love our shit, really…we love consuming. Why else do we lose our collective minds during the holidays, granted my circle of folks I give to is small.  Once you are outside my inner circle any gift you are likely to receive from me is more apt to be a hand-made treat, mostly in the form of baked goods.

The thing with giving a donation in someone else’s name is that unless said person is one of these higher thinking folks, on some level people tend to feel cheated. “Hey Jane, instead of a gift I decided to make a gift to the ABC Non-profit in your name”…Um, ok. The thing is to give on this level you might almost want to discuss it with the person beforehand. If you think I am talking shit, NPR last week had a piece on this growing trend and it turns out most folks really do not like the idea of this.

On some level unless the organization is closely aligned to the person’s values, I think in a way you end up looking like you are shoving your beliefs down a person’s throat. Personally as someone who works for very little in the non-profit sector while I recognize the value of these gifts and generally they are doing a great deal of good, at the same time, I am not sure a donation as a gift is a great idea.

Now obviously as I strive not to spend a great deal, I am down with meaningful gifts and even ones that don’t cost money. Frankly I would be tickled pink if a friend said here is a coupon for 1 Saturday night of babysitting services, a gift like that is thoughtful and provided the giver was someone I trusted with my kid, an evening sans kid would indeed be a gift. Giving experiences is also nice…museum passes, gift certificate to a massage therapist. Hell, I doubt there are many people who wouldn’t like a nice massage. (I know…not everyone but I suspect a good deal would).

So while it may feel good to feed our conscience when giving a gift, call me old-fashioned but I think you have to think of how the gift will be received. Look, a donation to the local animal shelter is nice but if you are me, I’d say thanks but secretly think, that didn’t seem like a gift at all.

Anyway just a random Tuesday ramble…I suspect I will be heading to my holiday schedule soon since the boy child is home. So posting may be sporadic until the first of the year. Happy Holidays!

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  1. December 22, 2009
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