Anyone who knows me knows that when it comes to gift-giving I have two rules, the most important of which is this: no gift cards. My second rule has to do with what I see as the redundancy of getting a greeting card and a gift, but that’s not what I want to talk about here. That first rule is especially important to me at Christmastime.
Now, before I get gift-card lovers up in arms, let me explain. I know that gift cards definitely serve a purpose. They are a great option for busy people who want to give something but don’t have the time to shop. Or they are a great gift as a prize or recognition of a job well done.
I also know that some people prefer to receive gift cards or cash because then they are assured of getting something they want or need. I know I’m swimming upstream. I get it.
But they just don’t work for me. Here’s why.
LOOK AND LISTEN
Have you ever gotten a gift that strikes you in the heart, one that tells you that person really knows you and put thought and energy into the gift? Wouldn’t you like to have that feeling every time you receive something—a gift that says: “I see you. I know you. I pay attention to you”? Well, that’s what I’m going for whenever I give a gift.
We all like to feel as if those we care about truly see us for who we are, don’t we? Recently, I was reminded of this when I was watching a Hallmark movie. (Don’t laugh. It’s my guilty pleasure.) At one point during the movie, someone asked the soon-to-be groom if he knew his fiancee’s favorite color, flower, flavor of ice cream, or a number of other things. Not surprisingly, he did not. The underlying message—that we don’t really know each other as much as we think we do—hit home for me once again.
That is why each year, beginning in January, I start a running list of all the people whom I would like to get something for at Christmas. Many of them are people who wouldn’t expect anything, which makes it even better. Throughout the year I watch, I listen, I ask questions. I snap pictures. I take notes. In fact, it’s amazing what you can learn about people just by being present and observant.
Even if everything I see or hear doesn’t result in an actual gift, what a gift in itself it is to learn more about that person. As for the actual gifts, they don’t have to be big or pricey—just something that lets the person know that you’re paying attention to him or her.
NOW MORE THAN EVER
These days, in fact, I feel that my mission is even more important—and difficult— because of the disconnect that seems to be so pervasive thanks to a wide range of things both literal and ideological. Sure, sending a text or e-mail is quick and easy. I get it; we’re all really busy. But a digital connection is just not the same as a face-to-face one. That is why I want to find a way to reconnect. For me, searching out the perfect gift is one small way I can do that. And Christmas—when we all receive the greatest gift of all—seems like the perfect time for it.
So while I respect your right to give whatever types of gifts you choose, whatever you do, just make sure it’s something that says, “I know you. I see you. I care.”