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Life Here

December 6, 2017 By Pat Williams

Gift Giving

A kinder gentler nation…Relax! This isn’t going to be about politics. It’s about the gentle art of gift giving.

Over my 80+ years, I’ve received lots of wonderful gifts, along with a few that were not so wonderful; the kind where you hear a still, small voice in your ear reminding you, “It’s the thought that counts.”

When I was small, times were hard—so to get any present that was brand new was a cause for celebration. A new pair of pajamas, a new pencil box that you could show off at school, an inexpensive board game like “Ludo” or “Snakes and Ladders” was special. The thank you was heartfelt…you were so fortunate.

As you got older, you learned it was important not to hurt others’ feelings. The sweater that didn’t match anything in your closet, the ugly vase, the hand-crocheted holder for the spare toilet roll—all were exclaimed over and then hidden away, to be brought out and prominently displayed when the donor was expected.

Now, people have no problem ‘regifting’ something they don’t like. Now, anyone who is anyone has a smartphone and/or tablet, that takes photographs, which they upload to Facebook, and spend so much time communicating that often there is no time left to go out and buy a gift, or even a card, for a special occasion.

Not everything in life is better because it is newer. If that were so, no one would pay thousands of dollars for a Stradivarius violin or a Hepplewhite desk. After all, they’re just pieces of carved wood if you think about it.

When did one’s worth as a human being become so inextricably linked to technology? “We interrupt this conversation (card game, transaction, payment, etc.) so that I can answer my cell phone” (i.e., I am in so much demand that you must wait while I allocate time to one of my many admirers.) Or, “Here’s a gift card” (i.e., buy your own gift that way you get what you want and I save a lot of time presumably to text all and sundry about what you had for lunch or how you suffered at the gym this morning.)

A few years ago, someone gave me an expensive set of notecards from Cartier. I thanked the donor, but it is highly unlikely that I will ever use them—when I took a second look I saw that each one was individually hand painted. But the other day I received a belated birthday card with a brief note handmade by a friend who moved to New Zealand a decade ago.

In this hectic world, time is a gift in itself. This gift is so much better than a whole box of cards hand painted by a stranger.

Take time to smell the roses, and remember these wise words: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present. 

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