The Presence of Presence
My husband often accuses me of waiting until the last minute to buy gifts for people. When he does that, I usually end up walking off in a huff; I think that I do good huff. Secretly, I have to consider that Larry might be right, but it's not laziness that keeps me from braving stores early.
It's the idea that a gift must be perfect that gets me. It stops me in my tracks and paralyzes me with indecisiveness. I hate that.
I try to be a thoughtful giver. I try to find gifts that show that I have paid attention to hobbies or favorite activities. These days, however, it feels like the gifts that I choose must be THE absolutely most perfect-for-that-person ever. If I am buying a gift for a music lover, for example, then I have to find an obscure recording of Blind Lemon Jefferson(Bonus points if you know who that is without Google!). If I'm buying for a knitter, then it has to be virgin-worsted grass-fed Himalayan Alpaca wool. I don't even know what that is, but I feel pressured to find it. The thought of a disappointed face spurs me on.
In years past, I would drive myself crazy trying to find the "right" present. I still do for some people. If it isn't the "right" present, then it doesn't count, for some people. I wasn't aware that there was a contest, but I have been competing anyway. If I didn't get the "right" present, then I had failed. It hasn't help that occasionally, after all my efforts, the recipient of my gift would show their appreciation by immediately returning my "perfect" present, or by telling me that they were disappointed. And yes, those things have actually happened. Those people get gift cards or cash, and then marked off my list. I don't even bother now. It makes me sad, but I have enough to worry about without adding their disappointment to my plate.
A gift should never be given with the expectation of gratitude. It truly should be the 'thought' that counts, as cliche' as that sounds. It's not about the dollar amount, either. For a gift to have presence, for a gift to be "right", it only needs the giver's desire to bring joy to the recipient behind it. If my son, in his desire to make me smile on Christmas morning, makes me some sort of lumpish knick-knack, then that gift is perfect. When people open gifts that express that sense of thoughtfulness in some way, it lights up their heart, even if the gift isn't what they expected. The gift of love always shines. That is what people remember about the gifts they are given; those are the memories that people hold close to their hearts.