Many years ago, a friend of my family sent me a note announcing that they had donated to charity in my name. The person I was then did not understand such a thoughtful action done on my behalf and I quickly dismissed the gesture. Now that I have been on a consistent path of growth and that I am blessed to help others for a living, it is needless to say my perspective has shifted and grown as well.
As we travel in our own journeys, we begin to see things under a different perspective – one that we did not see before yet we do see now. That is called learning. One of the many lessons I have learned in my own journey thus far is that gifting is not the same as giving. It seems more and more that there is this generalized stress and anxiety about what to gift during the Holidays and people cannot wait to survive the craziness of it all and be done with it. And it does not stop with Christmas either – in February we deplete the earth of red roses and chocolate; in May the roses take another hit and the greeting card sales spike up; in June we do the male version of May; In November we stuff ourselves in preparation for December, when we stress ourselves spending without really knowing why, and in January we guilt ourselves and run to the gym. Rinse and repeat, every year.
One day I decided to shift my perspective on giving because the old yet accepted patterns of gifting simply did not fit me anymore. I shifted my perspective to one about less is the new more: less gifting and more giving.
So here are my newly adopted perspectives on giving, as opposed to gifting. Take what works for you:
ONE: Give throughout the year, for no reason whatsoever and to whomever you want– your cousin, your friend, your significant other, your community or your pet. It doesn’t really matter who you give to but genuinely give from the heart and do it every time you feel compelled to. You don’t have to spend a dime if you don’t want to and that is the true beauty of giving; because in reality you are giving something that cannot be bought. More importantly, give because you truly want to. If you find that you are trying to convince yourself into doing this or you are having a hard time even choosing who to give what, then skip it altogether, because this is meant to just flow.
TWO: Give at times when you think you’re supposed to be receiving, for instance, on your birthday. Reach out to someone you miss and catch up; thank your parents or those who raised you for the life they have given you; volunteer at that non-profit you’ve been talking about for months; start recycling; buy a stranger their coffee that morning and make their day; spend some time with your kid(s) and give them all your attention, even if it is just for 20 minutes and listen to their stories, or let them use your face as “Play Doh” even if it usually annoys you – you catch my drift.
THREE: Give to yourself and often, because you cannot give to others if you have nothing to give. Other than the sporty red car you wish for yourself; what else that does not involve spending huge amounts of money can you give to yourself? Is it treating you to a meeting-free day? Scheduling a massage? Making time to spend it with your favorite person? Whatever it is, make it special. It doesn’t matter if it is big or small as long as it has meaning to you.
FOUR: Last but not least, if anyone asks you: “what do you want for (insert capitalist gift-giving “holiday” here)? Answer by requesting an intangible gift: “let’s compare notes on our favorite wine” or “let’s grab a blanket and watch the stars tonight” or “let’s do a TV-series marathon” or “how about you make me that wonderful recipe of yours?” When I was little and I asked my mom what she wanted for Mother’s Day, she would reply “a kiss.” At a young age I did not grasp what she meant, but I certainly do now.
Giving is a present in itself and you can find sheer joy by focusing on giving as opposed to just gifting. When you give your attention, your words, your physical affection, or anything else you can’t place monetary value upon, you are actually giving part of yourself and that is priceless. Am I suggesting that you should avoid having someone buy you an expensive gift or buy you lunch? Or hinting for you to stop doing that for others? Absolutely not – we all love spoiling those close to us. What I am saying is: do that on top of the other intangible things you already give throughout the year, because giving connects you to others in ways that gifting can’t.
Let’s talk! What are your thoughts on giving and how has that changed over the years? Leave your answer in the comment box below or contact me with any questions you may have.