I am one of the most frustrating people to buy gifts for according to my family.
It’s true. I have been difficult. I used to be very particular in the past. Lately, they’ve told me that I’m more of a challenge now when I tell them that I really don’t need anything. I am learning that it’s hard for the gift-giver to hear that there is nothing to give.
Since having kids, I have had a problem with excessive gifts. I was afraid that the kids would be spoiled. How could I teach them to appreciate what they have? How could I be able to understand that they weren’t entitled to receive these gifts and for them to simply feel gratitude for the thought itself? When they were little, I used to get angry if I saw a look of disappointment on their faces when they opened gifts. But I would react the same way when someone had spent too much money on a gift for me or buy me anything unnecessary. Gift exchange became this complicated process with these layered emotions of guilt, frustration, resentment, and fear.
As my kids grew, I softened. After about the thousandth time my dad refused to let us pay for dinner, I started to understand. And then I read this quote in Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing:
The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not “things” but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.
I no longer give conditions for gifts or feel guilty. I focus on the giver and not the gift. I pay attention to the intention. I recognize that the joy in giving is always the same no matter the size or shape of the gift itself.
St. Francis said, “It is in giving that we receive.”
But I think that it is in receiving that we give.