I saw a post on Facebook this week from a mom who is advocating that all families get inexpensive gifts for their children so that kids with less aren’t “heartbroken.” I’m no social economist, but I’m pretty sure if this mom got her way, it would not be good for the global economy. And, while I’m also not a huge fan of conspicuous consumption and I’d like to see everyone getting meaningful gifts for their children, something struck me as “off” about trying to protect poor children from the pain of seeing other children get big fancy gifts.
Isn’t it more important that we all appreciate the value of the gifts we are given? And that we put care into the gifts we give?
Studies have shown that giving gifts is a source of happiness even more than receiving them. As reported by Harvard-trained researcher Shawn Achor in his Success Magazine article, “How (And Why) To Give The Perfect Gift,” “people who are constantly giving to their families and friends are significantly happier than those who are not.” Regardless of the gift, says Achor, it’s the thoughtfulness that counts—not only for the receiver, but for the giver too. Increasing the anticipation and time put into gift choice and, when applicable, gift creation, gives more joy to the person giving! Even if the recipient doesn’t appreciate the gift as much as the giver desired, the giver has had weeks or months of joy leading up the moment of giving. That’s worth a lot.
Choosing the Right Gift
I’m in a leadership group where we throw birthday parties for every member of the group and purchase gifts for the birthday boy or girl. The process of choosing a gift is always enlightening. We want it to be something they’ll enjoy, that they wouldn’t get for themselves, and that they won’t throw in the corner and never use. We prefer not to default to Amazon gift cards since we want to show that thought was put into the gift—even if the person has been in our group for only a week!
To jump start the process, we get a list from the recipient of things they would want, and we collaborate from there. Gifts have included energy healing sessions, movie popcorn machines, shirts and ties, cologne, and tickets to Disney World. Without fail, the gifts we give hit the mark and we all get to watch birthday person’s excitement when they discover what we’ve given them.
When we know people well, it’s usually easy to choose a gift that will light them up, whether that’s something we make by hand, a computer-generated photo album, or an expensive electronic gadget (drone anyone?) I recently discovered the “subscription-box” option where you can give someone a monthly box of something they will love! In particular, BetterBox seems like a thoughtful choice: a service which delivers monthly boxes with themes like gratitude, creativity, better sleep, and paying it forward. What a great gift for someone who can use incentive for self-care or slowing down! If are close to someone, you’ll probably be able to find the perfect box subscription for them—and it will last all year!
There are all kinds of ways to make gift-giving satisfying and joy-inducing for everyone involved. Choosing a charity to give money too has become another popular, and fulfilling, option. One thing’s for sure: Throwing money at a last-minute gift won’t produce a lot of joy—while regardless of cost, a thoughtful gift will bring light to both the giver’s and the recipient’s lives.
To the mom on Facebook, I say this: Instead of trying to limit the types of gifts other people give to their kids, how about starting a campaign for all of us to be thoughtful about our gifts, and to value thoughtfulness over price tag, no matter what our budget?
Now that would be a cause I could support with gusto.