Giving thoughtful gifts

The Art of Giving

“For it is in the giving that we receive.”-  Francis of Assisi

It is the season of giving and Francis of Assisi was right – it’s better to give than to receive. Just watch a child’s face on Christmas morning or see the look in your spouse’s eyes and you quickly realize how much fun it is to give a gift. It isn’t always easy finding the right present for some people, so you are not alone in the often frustrating, stressful practices of choosing gifts. But if you let go of convention it can become a wonderful experience for both you and the recipient. It’s a testament to your personal growth when you spend more time and thought making others happy than on thinking about what you’ll get.

Gift-giving practices vary around the world. For instance, in China, giving a clock is bad luck. In Russia, you should bring bouquets with an uneven number of flowers – even numbers are for funerals. If you want to make a Swede happy, liquor is a favorite gift. In some places, the color of the wrapping paper carries meaning and in many countries people give gifts for the New Year.

Here in the United States, the practices of gift giving are a bit more straight-forward (though a vacuum cleaner for your wife may not go over well.) So why the struggle? Probably because we want to get it right, we want to make the other person happy, and we want to experience the lift that comes when someone appreciates our efforts.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving” – Mother Theresa

While the route to achieving great personal growth centers around evolving to a more mature and meaningful approach to life, the same can be said about giving. It’s no longer about making a show, or competing with others.  One of the most  powerful, advanced emotions is love, so if you come from a place of love when you give, then you can’t go wrong. It honestly doesn’t matter how much you spend or where you get your gift. As cliche as it may sound, it truly is the thought that counts.

Focus on the gifts that express the kind of love you have for that person. This could mean getting them something they truly want, even if it’s not what you would have chosen. It could mean wrapping them in the things that make them feel safe, nurtured, or appreciated, like food, homemade crafts, or comfort items.The practice of giving food is a common one across the globe. Whether it’s homemade treats, locally- crafted gourmet food baskets, or even restaurant gift cards, the gift of food expresses love. While the food itself may not last, the experience of sharing a meal is a universal expression of camaraderie.

Photos and memory items also make touching gifts. You may give a long-forgotten old photo in a frame, a photo book of the newest family members, or pass on a collection of love notes bound and presented to the person who wrote them years ago. Whatever the choice, reaching out and touching hearts can go a long way this gift-giving season.

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

Presents given to our family and friends represent one type of giving. Consider also giving your time to a lonely acquaintance, or making a donation to a loved-one’s favorite charity. The true art of giving is best achieved when you share with those who truly need.

While the latest gadgets will break and the toys, games, and other goods may soon lose their lustre, gifts that come from the heart will last. They evoke memories, make new ones, or touch a place in the recipient long after the holiday season ends. Gift giving is an art, but it is a skill that anyone can master.