Apparently, a Pikachu Pokémon Build-A-Bear stuffed toy is a thing.
I know this because a colleague mentioned a well-intentioned brother-in-law gifted said stuffed toy to her partner. Her grown, adult partner who never requested such a gift.
That’s when another colleague chimed in about the uncle who didn’t understand the ten-dollar white elephant gifting rules indicating he needed to buy a new product versus contribute a more traditional white elephant “crap from my house” package and at her large family gathering, she was the only one to get a used, smelly couch throw pillow.
Yet another post-holiday reveler mentioned their aunt gifted them one huge package of fluffy socks. She likes fluffy socks, this was fine. She didn’t ask for them or need them, but they’ll do. But three packages later in the unwrapping tirade, Aunt said “oh, I got this package for you long before the other. Sorry.” Lo and behold, package #2 was an economy package of similar fluffy socks. My friend is without the drawer space or plethora of lounge time to wear such impractical footwear regularly. But Aunt was well-meaning.
They all were.
Like my work colleagues and what seems to be an epidemic, we also opened many a strange package with random gifts inside. Tchotchkes and small tokens predominated our gifting, and if we totaled the cost of each small knick-knack we’d have seen total prices that could have funded a single meaningful item from our lists.
Our family nickel and dimes themselves at the holidays into spending more than they need to on items we neither want, need, have a place in our home or life for or asked for.
But it’s generous.
That’s where we are stuck.
We are between the humble realization that people care about us and give us gifts. Yet, if it’s a gift that isn’t relevant to us, isn’t what we’ve talked about, doesn’t connect to our life, it also points out something else: We are not connected enough to our family for them to know who we are, how we live, what we love and use and what our new interests are.
Or, they are not paying attention.
That’s the sad reveal of this process. We aren’t upset about the goods. It’s the paying attention part made painfully obvious at moments like this that hurts.
The “this made me think of you” needs to stop and become a conversation, not a purchase. I’d love a random text some day in July from any relative or friend who says “I’m at this store and saw this fun book, the title made me think of you.”
That moment would be energizing. I’d be honored to know for certain that someone is going on about their life and I pop up in their activities.
But instead, they buy the strange book, the collectible pin, the socks, the silly t-shirt and save it to gift me.
We are talking to each other through goods.
We are talking to each other through goods. Capitalism has become so core that “thinking of you” doesn’t mean anything unless you make the on-sale, discounted three times, “it’s only five bucks” purchase.
It’s harder to be generous year-long. To think of and keep a mental roster of who in your life would like the text about the kitschy t-shirt you just saw, that takes effort.
Participating in the holiday rush and planning single shopping days with complete lists and grabbing items to purchase and wrap isn’t the same generosity as finding head space for people all the time, not in a designated purchase window.
Yet, we think of money as ugly. We don’t just give cash. It doesn’t wrap up as well, it feels less fun. But I bet cash would uplift many hearts as we all face salary and debt challenges in our changing economy.
Passing, meaningless gifts imply passing thoughts.
Someone thought of us. Bought us something, spending their hard-earned cash on us so we could unwrap something on Christmas. Boy, clapping back at that is a risk. But challenging what it is to be generous with thought and deed and time, that’s a conversation worth having. Passing, meaningless gifts imply passing thoughts.
Generosity is about thoughtfulness, sharing, listening, remembering tiny details. It’s not about “making sure I have a gift for cousin Joe.”
Maybe we need to focus more on your presence being your present.
We are having a very rough moment culturally. We’re angry and biting and stunned at the news. Money can be tight, mental health is hanging on by a thread. We need each other, not another punny refrigerator magnet.
Let’s make 2019 about listening. Being present. Honoring people by giving them head space and time.
Feminist, activist, outdoor advocate, animal lover, chocolate shake lover, reader, watcher, talker, actor, speaker, worker, writer, urban adventurer, hustler, involved, passionate, excited, ready.