“Books make great gifts because they have the whole world inside of them. And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!” Neil Gaiman
We all grow up with healthy and unhealthy stories about love. When I was growing up, I learned some beautiful things about love. I learned that loving people means treating them with kindness. Loving a person means believing in their potential, cheering them on and celebrating their successes. It means not wasting your time trying to change them. Just try to help them see their own brilliance.
But I also learned the unhealthy things which weren’t so helpful to me. I learned that loving someone means putting them above yourself and always being available to them. It turns out not to be true. Being a martyr helps no one. Living like this breeds resentment. Another was to always listen to whatever they have to say – even in an angry voice. That turns out not to be true as well.
There are many ways of expressing love. There is speech, touch, quality time and special kindnesses. Some people show love through food. Cooking is a way to bring people together, to love and to listen. I didn’t grow up in a family that cooked like that so I did not understand until I was older, that cooking for someone was more about love than sustenance.
I have always been a shopper. The idea of buying a gift is to show someone you were thinking of them, you recognize what they do for you and you’ve paid attention to their likes and chosen something for them. It is a way that I can show love when words are uncomfortable. A gift says I love you or I notice what you do for me without any physical touch except the appropriate hug.
When I travel, I don’t have a lot of time to shop. My favorite thing is to find the perfect piece of street art or photograph for my kids. They have pieces from all over the world. I buy beaded bracelets in countries that do that and give them to my family and friends. When I find something I like that is inexpensive and specific to a country, I buy a few as gifts. I like people to know that I think about them when I travel.
Gift giving should be simple but for me it is complicated. It is hard to figure out what another person might want or need. It isn’t about a price tag but a way of communicating. I don’t think about what I want to buy. I think about what I want to say to this person. If I do not know the person well enough or I am out of ideas, I try to think of gifts that most people would like such as scarves, wine, donations in their name or gift certificates
The gold standard for the perfect gift is a genuine smile on a kid or anyone’s face when they open it.
Happy Holidays and Fly Safe,