Saturday, December 26, 2015

Better Gift Giving in 2016

So how did Christmas 2015 go on the Farm?  It went well, there were family and friends and food and presents and fun.  Nothing really to complain about, but plenty to improve.  This holiday was not the send off I was hoping for the year, and did not provide me with the kind of happiness that years past had.  In fact, I feel that I barely made an appearance this year.

I am looking forward to Christmas 2016.  Hopefully I will be able to do the things I wanted to accomplish last year, next year.  I expect to be more productive, and make better plans, and do all those wonderful things we write New Year resolutions about, and the Farm is how I'm going to get there.

What's going to happen when Christmas 2016 rolls around?  How am I going to make it an even better experience than 2015?  Simple, I'm going to improve myself through better gift-giving.  This is not to imply that I will be giving better gifts, though that is a possibility.  No, I will improve the way I give gifts, and find a better way to share the bounty of the year with others.

So, upon reflection here are the things I've learned about my gift-giving practice:

I worry too much about giving "good" gifts.  I've never received a "bad" gift in my life, yet I spend so much time worrying about the gifts I give, and whether or not they are good enough.  The stress of good gifting causes me to want to stop gift-giving all together.  I know that I'm not alone in this, yet this is really a sign of our problems, not problems with the world.  Giving gifts (if done for genuine reasons) is always good.

I hate giving money as a gift, because to me it feels like I don't know this person.  It highlights my lack in maintaining personal relationships, allowing myself to become too self-focused.  This year I received a gift certificate for new sunglasses.  This was like receiving money, but at the same time it allowed me to get something I wanted (and got to pick the style I liked).  I've been thinking about other people's projects.  I tend to come up with tons of projects every year.  I never have enough help, time, or money to finish most of them.  This year I plan to help others with their projects, with my time and if necessary money.  These gifts will not be held back till some holiday, but will be given throughout the year.

Not all gifts need to be practical.  A hammer is not a gift, it's a hammer.  When my father gave me my first set of tools it was great, not because I really needed a hammer, but because I could work on things with him in the shop.  Somehow, especially when money and time get tight, this concept of practicality rears its head.  The problem with practical gift giving is that it misses the point.  The point is about sharing and showing people that you care.  This year I received a beautiful piece of art that I will now need to build a display cabinet for.  I will enjoy this every day, and think of the person who gave it to me.  I also received a bunch of CDs that were picked randomly from a bin at a store.  Its been fun to listen to something I would never have picked up.  Art, music, food, and fun are some of the best gifts.

Sometimes it is easier to give gifts to complete strangers rather than to your friends and family.  I've often done my office Christmas Gift Exchange shopping before I've done my "important" gift shopping.  This is
simply because there is no expectations for an office party gift.  However, when I start thinking about family and friends nothing is ever good enough.  This year I thought of someone I haven't thought of in years.  A friend of my grandmother, who we would visit every summer when I was young.  Every year this woman would send a tin of homemade chocolate pralines to our house (mmmmmm), and I always looked forward to that.  It was a tradition.  I don't know how long it has been since we last got one of those tins, but I miss them and the person.  Perhaps instead of thinking of gift-giving as the tradition, perhaps I should think about the gift as a tradition.  Something that will come every year.  It's simple and meaningful.  Sometimes there's a little extra, but there is always the tradition.

Giving gifts is wonderful, and making people happy is wonderful.  To become better at this is my goal.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone.

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