Reframing Gift-Giving

Ads, ads and more ads… do you get as tired of them as I do?

As a business owner providing both services and retail products, I recognize that advertising is a very important piece of finding and informing the people who may want your products or services. We all need to make a living, after all. And yet everywhere we turn these days, we are hit with a barrage of ads. And it seems to me that it ramps up even more once anticipation of the holiday season begins.

As we approach the holiday season, I find myself feeling quite irritated by all the junk being advertised as gifts. You know what I mean? The stuff that only sells because it’s weird and will get a laugh (before being tossed in the garbage along with its packaging), or the stuff that sells because people want to look cool or be on the cutting edge.

Okay, so here’s what I’ve been contemplating. When I’m asked what I would like for Christmas (or my birthday), I always feel at a bit of a loss to come up with anything because I have all the “stuff” I actually need.

What I really want is time and the opportunity to spend unrushed time with the people I love.

I want to laugh with them. I want to enjoy home-cooked meals with them or go for walks and enjoy the scenery in this amazing part of the world. I want to feel connected with them. I don’t need them to spend money on me. Don’t get me wrong, I love to receive gifts as much as anyone. And I love the way it feels to know that they have spent precious time and energy to make me something. It’s a very clear message that illuminates just how much they love me. How wonderful is that?

I was reminiscing about past holiday seasons and remembering how varied they have been for me. There were years when it was all I could do to pay the rent and still have enough money to feed myself. I remember feeling a tremendous degree of shame in those years when I simply couldn’t give material gifts. The commercialization of the holiday season persistently and insidiously plants and builds an unconscious (or subconscious) sense that we must purchase items to give as gifts… and not just to loved ones but to teachers and co-workers and bosses and the check-out lady at the grocery store.

No wonder I found myself feeling overwhelmed with shame in those years when I had no money to spare for gift giving.

It’s so easy to get carried away and overspend in a way that puts us behind the 8-ball when the new year settles in. I’ve definitely fallen into that trap and paid the price!

I still really wanted to give my loved ones gifts, so I made up coupon books and each coupon could be redeemed for some service that I could provide. For instance, “this coupon can be redeemed for a kitchen cleaning”. When that person called in the coupon, I would go to their house and clean their kitchen for them. I gifted “tea party” coupons and “walk in the country” coupons, “pedicure” coupons and “car wash” coupons. People didn’t always cash those coupons in, but when they did, I was delighted.

Years ago, after my mom passed away we were doing some organizing of her things. I needed a small pair of scissors and looked through the drawers of her sewing cabinet and found one of the coupon books I had given her.

She had saved it all those years.

It’s funny, at first I felt bad that she hadn’t redeemed any of them. Yet she had kept that coupon booklet, and she kept it with things that (before her dementia was too severe to allow it) she used every day. That left me feeling deeply touched. She didn’t need anything from me. She just wanted to be reminded that I loved her. I like to think that my little coupon book shouted, “I love you Mommy!” every time she opened that drawer to get her scissors out. (And yes, I called her “Mommy” right up until she passed away.)

In other lean years, I would go to the thrift shop on $1/bag sale days (that was a few years ago… LOL) and look for items made of really interesting fabric. I’d carefully choose things that I could transform into new and useful items. A dated leather coat could become a beautiful purse; a several decades old fur coat could become a teddy bear. I often found remnants of new fabric, bundles of lace and other trim. I always went primed to be creative and think outside the box. I always found interesting things that had the potential to be transformed.

One of the things I love about Revelstoke is that our community embraces earth-friendly practices. Re-pair, re-purpose, re-use, re-cycle… in Re-velstoke. My business couldn’t exist without people who want to avoid throwing things away just because they are slightly damaged. Repairing clothing and gear is a huge part of what my shop offers our community. I love to see people purchasing items at the thrift shop and cutting them up and transforming them into something completely different.

I love that. I love the creativity and ingenuity that goes into that process.

It’s fun when customers bring their projects in to show me. It’s inspiring.

Like most people, I want my holiday season to be meaningful. If I’m going to give gifts it’s going to be done within my financial means and it will be because I want to express my love for those people dearest to me. And hey, I’m happy for any excuse to bake and knit! I’m all for less stress during the holiday season. I’ll be in a lovely state of Zen, knitting under a blanket in my comfy chair as the snow falls outside.

Happy Knitting!

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