The Year Without Presents.
This is my year without presents. I will give no presents. I will accept no presents. The only thing on the board is the exchange and sharing of time, and maybe some food and wine.
You might be thinking ‘What! No presents? How?’ Better yet, ‘WHY?’
Well, here it is, the why and how!
Presents can be a lovely thing. Sometimes you seek and find that PERFECT present for someone you care for. Sometimes they seek and find that PERFECT present for you. We give presents for everything – birthdays, Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter, engagements, weddings, graduations, baby showers, and sometimes we are even encouraged to give random gifts on no occasion ‘just because you care’. Many or most of us in the western world have grown up in a culture of gift giving, not to mention the media and adverts cramming it down our throats.
Why do we give gifts in the first place? We give gifts, or rather, we have been told to give gifts to show people that we care. It is often treated as a means to show love, gratitude and appreciation.
“I appreciate you – here is a candle” “I love you – here are some tube socks.”
But it is much more complex than that. We also inadvertently learn that presents should reflect our love, gratitude and appreciation in value.
“He loves me, so he better get me something really good” or “I love her fifty bucks worth.”
Somewhere down the line we put a price tag on our love for one another. But do any of those things honour your love? Does that candle, those socks, that sweater, those earrings, do they really honour your love, gratitude or appreciation? I think you see where I am going with this.
What I haven’t got to yet is the repercussions for this gift giving mayhem. Yes, of course we should be grateful and appreciative of the gifts we receive, whatever they may be. But the sad reality is, many of them don’t make it passed the front door. Some of them may be lucky enough to linger in a closet for a time so that we don’t feel guilt for immediately disposing of gifts we have just received, but they often otherwise end up in a donation box or landfill.
While I too have grown up in a life that favours gift giving on the appropriate occasion, at times I cannot deny its waste; the paper, bows, bags, cards and sometimes gifts. Though it is difficult to face, in a culture of excess we have to take these moments to reflect on our habits.
This is probably where you are starting to think I sound like a real Grinch, and that I am doing a big bah-humbug and trashing all that you hold near and dear to your hearts – but wait, I’m not finished yet!
I think the principle behind the gift is a great one! It is important to express your love, gratitude and appreciation for the people you care about. But I don’t agree with buying gifts because of obligation – buying someone “stuff” because you feel you have to. If we care about someone, does any “thing” we buy them really show it? You share that common moment when a gift is opened, smiles, hugs and gratitude ensue, but that moment passes and all that is left is that “thing”. But it was never about that “THING”, it was about what it meant in the first place! How about instead of the gift of “things”, we gave the gift of time. What better way can we really show our love, gratitude and appreciation for someone by spending quality time with them? There is no comparison.
This is my year without presents. I will give no presents. I will accept no presents. And when I use the term ‘present’ I mean it in the traditional sense of material items or “stuff”. What I will give and accept is the gift of time. And when I use the term ‘time’, I mean let’s hang out and do something together – what that is, is open to interpretation and I don’t want to put restrictions on it.
Here are some examples of gifts of time:
- I will cook your dinner of choice and we can share it
- I will bake you a batch of your favourite cookies or dessert
- Let me take you out for breakfast, lunch or dinner
- Let’s go for a hike
- I will pack a picnic and let’s go to the park or beach
- Let’s go to a concert, show or movie
- Let’s go to a museum or art gallery
- Let’s go wine touring
- Let’s go get a manicure or pedicure
- Consumables are okay if shared; wine, chocolate, desserts, meals, etc.
As times of celebration approach I will reach out to my loved ones and find out how they would like to celebrate. We will plan accordingly and get dates on the calendar.
To me, this is a no brainer, but I am not entirely sure how my family and friends will react to this. My hope is that people will ultimately find greater value in the time spent together, over the obligatory exchange of goods. You rarely if ever hear about people looking back on life and wishing they had more things – it is always more time – more time with the people they care about. So while we are alive and present in this moment, let’s decide to do 2017 a little differently. Let’s do it a little closer to the heart this year.