I adore giving. The idea of giving something, ANYTHING, that will make someone else happy makes my heart soar. That may be an acknowledgment, a gesture, my time, but for the sake of this piece, let's say I adore giving presents.
Confession: I also adore receiving presents.
As démodé as that may sound in this time of xmasresistance.org, the anticipation of an unopened present fills me with excitement.
Not because I need anything. (Oh, trust me…I do NOT need anything). And not because I'm envisioning something specific. But rather because I will glean some insight into how the giver sees me.
In his 1967 essay The Sociology of Gift Giving, Barry Schwartz writes: "Gifts are one of the ways in which the pictures that others have of us in their minds are transmitted".
Yes, yes, YES.
It's the reason we retweet a piece of writing that resonates. In that moment, we feel like we are being seen. Like the writer stepped into our heart and shared what was there. In their words. And to be seen is a mighty powerful thing.
It's part of what makes GIVING gifts so challenging. We want to make sure we GET. IT. RIGHT. It's a guilt-laden emotional landmine of "good enough"? "Spent enough"?
What if it wasn't about getting it right (or wrong?) What if we really just sunk into the gift of giving? The opportunity to tell someone: "I may be off on this, but I heard this CD and I loved how it made me feel. It's how you make me feel. I hope you love it too".
Dare to see someone and show them what you see.
Like the engagement ring my husband picked out for me 14 years ago. It is not the one I would have chosen for myself back then. It was 1997 and I suspect I was an emerald-cut solitaire kinda gal. (That's what Martha Stewart was showing in her wedding mags, after all.)
What he chose was very different. It represents how he sees me. In his words: funky + elegant. It's what I think every time I look at it and it makes me beam.
I'd say that trumps all, wouldn't you?
So when you open your presents this holiday season, believe that they were selected with the essence of YOU in mind.
That fruitcake with brandy crème fraiche may mean the giver sees you as a classic traditionalist.
Or those socks may speak to how they envision you to value luxury (they ARE cashmere, after all).
Or they may hope that the framed picture captures your love of adventure.
Even the gift card for the movie theatre may mean that they believe you desire more time away from the computer.
Whether you are or aren't a classic traditionalist, a luxury-lover, adventurer, or a movie-goer, know that this is the story the giver has of you. Get curious about knowing more of that story. Hear what they see in you. Find the gratitude there and share the impact of that. It may be an amazing opportunity to share more of YOURSELF with the giver. And isn't that what this is all about?
Being a gracious receiver is the gift that keeps on giving.