The desire to produce the perfect gift that elicits the desired reaction can often overtake our focus and it’s easy to lose sight of why we’re giving a gift in the first place. Due to appalling family planning we have Christmas and all three of our children’s birthdays within a two-week period. Needless to say, it’s an expensive time of year and despite having a Christmas account that we save into each week throughout the year, there always seems to be a gap between what we’d like to do and what we can afford. When you add friends and extended family to the list, it really can be overwhelming.
Now, I’m not going to pretend for a moment that I am the mastermind in our house behind the gift choices during this season. My wife swings into action around October and starts making purchases and I jump in here and there with the occasional present purchase. What I am subjected to however, is the endless conversations around what I think each person would like. Some decisions come easy and are quickly finalised, but others are agonised over for what feels like forever. Maybe the desired gift isn’t in stock, maybe we can’t find it in the right colour or at the right price. Or even worse still, maybe we have no idea what they’re going to like.
One of the courses I teach for MCM is the Five Appreciation Languages in the Workplace. As part of the course, I always ask participants to think about a time they received a special or meaningful gift. I have asked this question many times and I’ve had a wide range of responses, but I think I could probably count on one hand how many times a person has told me about an expensive gift. Normally it’s something that doesn’t have a huge monetary value but is very personal and meaningful to them. I ask them how it made them feel to receive such a gift and what it was about the gift they loved. Almost every time I get a response something along the lines of it makes me feel special/appreciated/loved because I know they’ve spent time thinking about me.
Now I’m wise enough to know that if I give my ten-year-old son a photo of us sharing a special memory along with a card with some heartfelt words for Christmas, it’s not going to do down well. But I think of all the adults in my life that I buy meaningless presents for that they’ll probably never use, and I can’t help but wonder if there’s a better way to do gifting. I’ve concluded that really; the actual gift doesn’t matter that much. It’s the thought and meaning behind the gift that makes the difference. In fact, sometimes it’s better to abandon the gift altogether and take the time to sit down and write a letter to the person telling them how much you appreciate them and what a difference they’ve made in your life.
So, whether your Christmas budget could rival the GDP of a small country or is significantly more modest, could it be that the perfect gift may be something that doesn’t cost very much at all? Words are incredibly powerful, so take the time to tell the people in your life what they mean to you and look for those gifts that hold special meaning and memories. Merry Christmas!