Victims of Prosperity

I’m trying, really trying, not to make this a rant.  I’m just saying.  There is a difference.  As I type, I am trying to keep my written voice low and steady.  No screamin’ meamies allowed. 

This thought began in July when a house down the street from us put the makings of a garage sale on the corner of their lot with a sign that said, FREE. [Our Salvation Army went out of business (!); which means there is no local entity that accepts donations.] The pile sat there for day after day after day. Weeks later the lonely and neglected pile remained. Gracious, I thought, we have become such a prosperous people that we can’t even give away our stuff.   

This morning, while I was serenely sipping tea and soaking in the heat from the wood stove, I received an SOS call from a relative who was shopping, totally bereft of gift ideas for certain loved one.  “I feel your pain,” was about the best I could do. 

It has become the national question: 
“What do you get for the person who has everything?” 

The problem is that everyone on my list, down to my grandson, fits that description. 

Our lack of want is stealing some of the joy, don’t you think?  We’ve become victims of our own prosperity.

Because I’m not a shopper, I’m not a good gift giver.  I’d rather clean toilets than shop in a store full of grimacing people listening to tinny canned music.  And if I give into the temptation to procrastinate I find myself in the most loathsome position possible:  wandering around WalMart on December 22nd, looking for some plastic thing made in China to wrap and give.  Blech.

Because I’m not a good observer, I’m not a good gift giver.  I really don’t remember which colors my daughters (in-law) love to wear.  Or what makes my mother-in-law’s eyes light up.   An organized person would have a little notebook and  keep track throughout the year.  An observant person would know without the notebook…

The fact is that it is easy to get gifts for people who share the same tastes and interests that you do.  When you see/read/smell/taste/drink something you love, you know that person would also love it.  Somehow, we often end up related to people who don’t share our tastes!  My friend put it well:  [insert name] and I always give each other hair products because we just don’t know each other very well even though we are closely related. 

Perfectionism can also block the way.  The search for the perfect gift, the one sure to delight, can keep us from getting something pretty good

Thus far, the problem.

The truth is that it is more joyful to give than to receive.  Do you remember the moment when you got it right?  When the gift was opened and then the eyes opened wide?  The little “o”, and the sucked in breath?  The wonder? The delight? 

Gifts should be an expression of love, not a tribute to obligation.  How do we express our love in a way that is fitting, true, full of delight? 

More to come….


12 thoughts on “Victims of Prosperity

  1. Not that I know whom you’re talking about (the exchange of hair products, that is), that in itself is/was/should be reason enough to care about that person enough to get to know them better. I know I’ve been surprised enough times in my life by people who picked up on some random statement I’ve made about my likes and dislikes, only to receive some wonderful something that reflected that liking. It shows that you care about that person, over and above the norm. I’m not talking about expensive or huge, just letting the person know you care about them.  I suggest keeping a small notebook for throughout the year OR buying things when you see them and having a designated Christmas box. It’s delightful when the time comes to “wrap things up,” if you know what I mean.p.s. I love Mary Engelbreit!!! TEE! HEE! (j/k)

  2. Here is a tip that I ran across while looking for Thanksgiving cooking schedules… At  there are great housekeeping/scheduling tips and encouragements galour. In the holidays section there are also a set of links that will give you gift ideas for just these times of ‘having it all’. Very practical, reader suggested gifts and ideas to get our minds working for our loved ones…
    One that struck me as very cool suggestion came from a mom whose daughter was working far from home (not in the service, but that is where my mind raced) The daughter wasn’t going to be home for her birthday  (or other special day) The mom asked all the friends and family to each write a note of encouragement/congratulations and the mom put them all together in a scrapbook and sent it to her daughter (it sounded like it was not a fancy model, but of course could be). We have a nephew in the service stationed at the DMZ in South Korea. I wish we could do this for him for Christmas. We may still have time.
    There are several links for various people in our lives. I’m going to print them out and really try to refere to them this year.

  3. The book you sent for a belated birthday gift was perfect, if that helps .I understand what you are saying about the lack of want stealing the joy. That is so true. We have too much, and we don’t appreciate what we do have nearly enough.You may not need any ideas, but for grandchildren, I would suggest a game that you are willing to play with them, or a favorite book you will read to them. For family members who have internet, maybe a gift subscription to Netflix. One of the reasons I wanted to learn to knit was so I could make things for people, though one has to think ahead to be able to do this. I also have made gift baskets in the past and filled with all sorts of goodies for my family, though at Christmas some people are overwhelmed with goodies and don’t really want any more. I always like new kitchen items such as good muffin pans or cookie sheets (with recipes and ingredients is great!) or pretty dish towels.I am a big internet shopper. I hate crowds, though the tinny Christmas music doesn’t bother me so much when I hear snatches of carols that praise God, and I praise God that His praises are being sung in so many places this time of year.

  4.  “How do we express our love in a way that is fitting, true, full of delight?”
    Practice, practice, practice.
    Just like learning to play an instrument, or read, or write, we learn to give by practicing.  By exercise.
    I actually dont believe that you are not a good gift giver.  Gift-giving is a two way street.  There is the donor and the recipient.  Both have duties.
    Here’s a line from one of my favorite BC cartoons a la Hart, RIP
    Just ‘getting to give’At gift-giving timeIs the giftThat givers give.’Cause they knowThat the loveThat they loveTo give gifts withIs also a gift from above.Looking forward to the continuation,
    Dana in GA
    BTW  DH is the *better* gift giver in our family.

  5. Oh do I ever relate to you here, especially on the subject of shopping at this time of year. I was blessed yesterday morning when approaching a store where I was trying to find  – not gifts this time, but some plain sweat shirts for every day. They seem to be non-existent these days. None there either although I did find a very nice (and warm) top that I can wear even to church as well as other places where one wants something a cut above the everyday “jeans and sweat shirt” combo. Anyway I digress. I was blessed by being met at the door by a genial man dressed as Santa Claus and booming out “Merry Christmas!” Not Happy Holidays but Merry Christmas. One hears that all too seldom these days. I’m with you on internet shopping. Much easier all around.

  6. I, along with Cindy, will clean some toilets with you!  Talk about kindred spirits!  Not just with the shopping, but with the not picking up on hints from other people througout the year.  I have, however, scored some major home runs with my eldest son in the gift department–things that he was absolutely floored with.  I’m not exactly sure how I managed, though…
    I like the idea of keeping a small notebook handy for those moments when an idea strikes!

  7. Time invested in creating a gift is always an obvious show of love.  I HATE that dull wandering in Wal-Mart, going down every aisle, staring blankly at all the cheap STUFF.  That is a sickening feeling. 
    Photos in some form seem to always be a welcome gift, especially for those who are far away from us.   All through the year, they can take a little peek into our lives or see our faces smiling at them on the calendar page. Old photos are neat too – I had gotten a CD of old pix from my childhood and my parents’ childhood that my brother put together.  I then transferred these to an online photo service and had some very nice little photo books put together.  That is nice – because it evokes memories of better times or leaner times or different times. 
    Simple gifts – that’s what I am doing this year.  Making food gifts – one a breakfast theme, etc.  People who have everything STILL eat!

  8. Your thoughts did not come off at as a rant.  Good work!  I also hate to shop and thus, am not a good gift giver.  I’m already struggling with this, too.I look forward to your other thoughts.In Christ,Deb

  9. I think you are my twin in this!  I could have made all those same points.  The question is, what to do about it?
    So far, I’ve failed miserably.  Oh well, in this, even, God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness!

  10. I hear and understand you pain! I do not like gift shopping! It begins in the parking lot, hyperventilating, the flight instinct kicking in, the need to go in the store because there is a ladies room in there. . . !  Then, once I get in, aimless wandering over the same ground again and again and again. loosing my list which in my desire to be organized, I’ve listed names and ages of recipients, but no suggestions. So it’s doing me no good!
    Eventually I give up and get gift cards, which work well for my nephews but not so much for my dad. I also don’t wish to become the ‘aunt who gives plastic’ but what do you give teen aged boys that you never see, who’s parents have different standards than you regarding music and games, and then there are the agonizing thoughts like, “What if they already have this?”
    This leads me to huddling in front of the computer and by the dim light of the monitor, I shop on line, have the item wrapped and shipped and don’t have to fight my shopping dragons! So now I am ‘the aunt who shops on line’ making me a bit ‘cooler’ in the nephews eyes, but leads me to wonder at the impersonal-ness of it all.
    I wonder if it’s possible to shop without guilt! ;~)
    Finally, this year my dad told me what to get him so I will, making it much easier and he won’t have to try to go to a store and spend his plastic gift. I have given up on the surprise factor for some family, I just want to know what they want from me!

  11. Wonderful post. I don’t like to shop either.  I agree with everything you said about being robbed of joy by our prosperity.  Just yesterday, I remembered our poorest Christmas a few years back when the kids were thrilled to pieces with a couple of inexpensive gifts each and made gifts for me and Terry.I have to disagree that you are not a good or observant gift giver.  Your gift of the book about the Mother who loved to dance remains one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever received.  I cherish it and the fact that you reached across the internet to send it to me.Blessings,Sandy

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