UNITED STATES—The act of giving makes us relevant. It could consist of giving money or food or kindness.
Sadly, at this time of year giving is regimented and often done under duress, and it is all the more limited because giving gets pushed almost exclusively into the material realm. So there we are, dupes for technology toys and rushed generosity. We say, “it’s the thought that counts,” but we don’t mean it.
There was a lady in my hometown, Alta Rycraft. They said she would have been just as delighted if someone gave her a pair of old shoes as a diamond bracelet. Now that’s a wonderful way to be and emulate. Nevertheless, we just can’t always count on that animated reaction from the person receiving. It’s really nice for a gift to elicit a grateful response, but if you’re banking on elation, you’re doomed.
With giving, the highest hopes can turn into the deepest remorse and anger. In fact, the first murder in history was due to a case of giver’s remorse. That’s right. There were two brothers. One was a sheep herder, one was a farmer. Cain killed his brother Abel, because God was happier with the gift of Abel’s meat than with Cain’s vegetables. Perceived repudiation can awaken smoldering feelings of being snubbed and loved less, feelings of being the black sheep. And guess what? It awoke the killer instinct in Cain.
So givers had better get used to detaching from any expectations. Gratitude may flow forth, but it probably won’t.
When it does happen—and it will start to happen with much greater regularity the oftener you give—prize and cherish those moments of animated thanks.
Giving is in our very nature from when we’re born. That ‘gift’ from my bowels left in the middle of the living room floor when I was three didn’t go over so hot. The scolding cured me of any desire to repeat that, and I moved on. Then I was scarred for life when at the age of four or five, I used part of my allowance to buy a gift for my mom, a magnetic bulletin board. It put iton lay-away, later hid and wrapped it, and imagined how great and useful it would be. She never used it; it went onto a shelf in the pantry. That was my blunder—envisioning how it would be used and enjoyed. The fact is, once a gift is given, it has left your hands. Let go of any expectations for how it is received or used.
To enhance the experience of gift-giving, it behooves us to watch and listen to people year round, not just quizzing them right before the holiday. By waiting and being open to glimpse what people would like and welcome into their lives, we’ll be already prepared with good gift choices. People who collect special stuff are easy to shop for. (I collect Reagan memorabilia by the way). And there are people who are tough; they aren’t into things. They end up with a lot of socks or ties or Kahlua.
The best thing you can do is publicize what you’d like to receive, just like a kid making a list for Santa. And then you are giving others ease of finding something for you in the midst of the mad holiday rush. Giving somebody else that extra peace of mind in this volatile season—that’s a gift, though it may go ever unacknowledged, making someone feel satisfied with what they’ve chosen for you.
Finally, don’t leave your financial brain at the door of the mall or while shopping online. Here, watching and listening throughout the year can pay off and give you the inside track on a gift likely to please someone. Often the most ”perfect” gift is not the biggest or most expensive, but the best suited or most sincere. Also, learn to gauge true impact. Example: why give a dozen roses all at once? Think of the impact imparted if you could give a single rose during each of the 12 days of Christmas. Believe me, you’ll be much happier if you respect your spending code.
So here are three golden keys to giving:
1) Give for your own joy in giving.
2) Expect sneers in return (When somebody says a simple thanks you’ll feel honest joy).
3) Maintain your financial boundaries and you’ll be satisfied with yourself.
That said, I believe in sweating it out to constantly expand the bounds of our giving. The universe is expanding and so should our hearts. I cannot yet give on the scale I would desire or to all people I would like to give to, but my wish, my sincere wish to you is to help you find within yourself the means to turn up the volume on your life, so that it’s so staggeringly fun, compelling and engaging there’s no room to fret about anything so paltry as your diet or the ups and downs of finances. Greatness in you and a great step toward unleashing the greatness is to make giving a way of life.
Humorist Grady Miller is author of “A Very Grady Christmas: Three L.A. Christmases,” available on Kindle.