Monday, December 03, 2007

gift giving

What purposes does gift giving serve? (in the order that I thought of them)

  1. marking a significant relationship with something tangible that reminds someone of you
  2. helping someone
  3. acknowledging someone's unique identity by giving something "just right" for them
  4. showing that you care about someone or that you understand their needs
  5. simply reaching out, indicating to someone that they are important to you ("the thought that counts")
  6. getting the satisfaction of surprising or pleasing someone (often coincides with #3)
  7. being inclusive, making someone feel part of a group, not wanting to disappoint someone
  8. fulfilling general social expectations
Can you think of anything else? Can we all try to focus on the first six and not default to #8? I suppose #8 still has value though, because if you feel better about yourself when you fit in to society and your community's norms, then this still helps others in that you're a better person to be around when you feel good about yourself.

I also try to be mindful of the consequences of gift-giving. Some possible ones are...
  1. goodwill and happiness all around
  2. costs and hassle of use and maintenance (for wanted gifts, this is not a burden)
  3. debts for the giver, and/or the money not being spent on something else (for good or bad)
  4. social debts for the other if you give more than they are comfortable with
  5. more stuff in the landfill (packaging, plus whatever the gift is replacing, and the gift itself, eventually)
  6. more market demand for the things you bought, leading to increased production
  7. environmental impact of all of the above (for good or bad)
Me, this year I want services: cooking, babysitting, cleaning, home improvement projects, massage certificates, yard work, car maintenance, trips, yoga classes, etc. I need to be extremely judicious about new STUFF being brought into my world. For E I'm planning to give away the same number of toys she receives (or maybe even more, as she doesn't play with all the ones she has). Consumable stuff, such as FOOD, is also good! I interpret the value of a gift by the personal meaning it has for me, or the time & effort put into it, or the need I have for it -- not by the price tag.

Post a comment if you have thoughts on this.



At 1:56 PM, Blogger Marie said...

I saw this on YouTube & thought of this post

I had a professor talk about Christmas as a way to redistrubute wealth. Took away some holiday cheer for me.

At 5:35 AM, Blogger sarah said...

Sarah you forgot "showing affection" - seems like kind of an obvious gift-giving purpose. Also, "getting someone to like you" is a common one, for good or bad.


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