Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Art of Gifting

When it comes to giving gifts, we've become spoiled. Actually, we've become lazy. How often do we wait until the last minute to purchase birthday, anniversary or even Christmas gifts, only to rush out and get a gift card? How often do the gifts we give depend on what's on sale or what happens to be featured in a special store display or in the latest catalog or web page? I'll be the first to admit that it can be extremely difficult to give a gift to someone that we don't know well. But what's our excuse when it comes to family members and/or close friends? My guess is that we opt for the easy way out when it comes to gift giving simply because it's easy. We simply don't want to take the time or go to the trouble of thinking hard enough and long enough about that special person to pick a gift that is truly special.

Another excuse that I often hear, and that I've used myself, is that it's too expensive. Somewhere along the way we've been duped into believing that a good gift is an expensive gift. Of course money can buy some really cool stuff, but in my opinion, that's not what "gift-giving" is about.

One of the most heartwarmingly beautiful wedding bands I've ever seen is one that was made by a soldier for his wife out of a silver nickel. Although I can't imagine how painstaking the task must have been, he described the process of hitting the nickel with a spoon over and over again to shape it into a band. That's how he spent long lonely days onboard a Navy ship while separated from his girlfriend. He was probably in his 70's when he showed me the ring. He'd given it to her when they were in their 20's.

I love to knit. When I was married, my husband made a pair of knitting needles for me out of wooden dowels. He carved, shaped and sanded them by hand. He stained them and then added jade caps on the ends. We are no longer together, and I've donated or re-gifted many of the expensive things he gave me. But those simple knitting needles, that he made with love (when he still loved me) I chose to keep.

I think Ralph Waldo Emerson got it right in an essay entitled "Gifts" in 1844.

"The only gift is a portion of thyself... Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to the primary basis, when a man's biography is conveyed in his gift... But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith's."

My dear friend Susan must understand what Mr. Emerson was talking about, because recently she sent me a gift that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Susan is a talented, thoughtful and sensitive blogger. She's also an accomplished and successful writer, having published and sold many books. She's written before about how she loves to write long-hand and has written about the tools of her trade. She knows that I love to write too and has been very supportive of my writing goals.

Susan sent me the most beautiful pen I've ever seen. It's a Levenger pen, which is awesome, and the fact that it's orange, which is one of my favorite colors, makes it even nicer. But the best thing of all is not that Susan went out and bought me an expensive ink pen, because she didn't. What's incredible to me is that this is one of Susan's favorite pens, one that she's written thousands of words with. It has been a part of her world for a long time... and she gave it to me. Somehow she knew that I'd understand the significance, the eloquence and the "perfectness" of her gift.

Susan and I met through our blogs in early spring. We post on each other's blogs and e-mail privately off-line almost daily and talk by phone at least once a week. For some unexplicable reason, although our friendship is still relatively new and we live on opposite sides of the country, I feel like we've known each other forever. And now, I have a very special piece of her world here in mine and I am truly touched. Today I want to publicly thank Susan for her thoughtfulness and I thank God for Susan's friendship.

1 comment:

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Sydney,
I found this post through Technorati. Although I've read it before, I am truly touched by it. But you should have told your readers that you knit me the most beautiful prayer shawl--and it was one of the most meaningful gifts I've ever received.

Having gone through a very difficult week, I've been draping it about me as I read, pray, and listen to soothing music.

Love,
Susan