This time of year, everyone is in the habit of buying and exchanging gifts with their friends and family. But as many of you may know, choosing the right gift for the right person, is a very challenging task. In this post, I hope to broaden your perspectives on gift giving.
How do you know if you have the right gift?
It helps if we understand what gifts represent. The following points detail the value and purpose of giving gifts.
- A gift is something given from one person to another that contains a valuable message pertaining to the recipient’s identity.
- A gift is also something that can be kept for a period of time, and which serves as a continual reminder of the message that the gift represents.
- The message is highly personal, but in general, the gift serves to enhance the quality of another persons’ life.
- We usually think of a gift as an object, wrapped in colorful paper, but a gift can come in other forms too.
Also, gifts are not necessarily presents wrapped in shining paper. What other kinds of things are qualified as gifts?
- Consumable resources, such as money, food, or drinks can be gifts.
- Vacations and special memories can be gifts.
- Giving someone a certain critical knowledge of something, or teaching them a special skill are two very powerful gifts.
- An enjoyable experience is a gift.
- Some services, like repairing broken appliances, or cleaning house, can qualify as gifts too.
Here, I’ll share a personal story about when someone gave me a gift that was so meaningful, that it touched my heart and changed my life. This is a true story that happened to me between 1998 and 2000.
When I was in graduate school, I was always short on cash. I could not buy nice clothes or new shoes. But you know, I was not in the habit of wearing nice clothes anyway. I came from a rural, uneducated family, so I was in the habit of wearing cheap fashion, which, in the mid-1990’s, was not very nice-looking at all. Flannel shirts, fatigues, leather caps and combat boots were my usual trademarks, and “comfort and durability” was my slogan when buying clothes. I was happy with my style, so I never gave it any thought. So that was me at the time.
One of my colleagues in graduate school was a post-Doc. He was about five years older than I was, and he was accomplished, published, and married. One day, he and his wife invited me to their home for dinner, and after we finished eating, they gave me a present. When I opened it, I found a very good quality dress shirt and a matching silk tie.
Frankly, I was disappointed.
I expressed my thanks to them, but after I got home, I threw it in my closet and forgot about it. I guess they knew I was not happy with the gift, but that did not matter to them.
As time went on, they continued to give me very expensive, high-quality, formal clothing on every occasion… tailored dress pants for Christmas, 1997, a polo shirt for my birthday, a silk tie for Easter, Egyptian-cotton socks at a summer party, a Nautica jacket in the fall, Johnson & Murphy captoes for Thanksgiving, a wool sweater for Christmas, 1998, the list goes on… After a while, other people, including my roommate, started giving me similar clothes as gifts!
I didn’t like that kind of style at all. I thought it was impractical to wear while I was working on my car. But you know, those clothes were valuable. Actually, any kind of clothes, are expensive.
After a couple years, a lot of my old clothing had become threadbare and was ready to be replaced. I had a choice: I could spend a lot of money to buy clothes, and keep my old dressing habits, or I could start wearing some of the new clothes that my friends had given me. Since I didn’t have much cash, I started wearing the new clothes from time to time.
I didn’t like it at first. I thought those clothes were so formal looking, stiff and uncomfortable. The collars choked me. I felt like I couldn’t move in them. I was always worried about getting those white dress shirts dirty or stained. The shoes were stiff and hurt my feet. The wool sweater was itchy. I also felt self-conscious to be the only guy in class wearing a polo shirt and captoe shoes, while everyone else wore jeans and t-shirts.
It took a few months for me to change my mind, and my habits. But after a while, I got used to the new feel. I found that Johnson & Murphy’s were just as durable as my combat boots, except that they looked a lot better. Once, I had to give a presentation about my research at a conference, and I was glad to have some appropriate clothes to wear for the occasion.
The appreciation for these changes came to me one day, when I was looking at myself in the mirror. I was wearing a light blue Stafford dress shirt, a dark blue Banana Republic silk tie, charcoal-colored, Louis Raphael wool slacks, a black leather belt and my black, J&M captoes. I wasn’t going anywhere special that day, I just went to class, and to study at my desk in the laboratory. But on that morning, as I looked at myself in the mirror, I realized something about my friends’ perspectives, and why they gave me these clothes.
I realized that my friends respected me, more than I respected myself!
Then I also began learning to respect myself, because I was humbled when I realized that my friends saw me as being a handsome, self-respecting, professional man. The message that those gifts carried was louder than words!
It had been difficult for me to see myself in this way, before this time. But ever since that day, I wear these clothes with pride, because these gifts make me feel loved.
By the time I graduated with my Master’s Degree, I was buying my own dress shirts, and wearing nice clothes every day. I would even wear a tie, just to WOW people and liven up the day.
I found that if I dressed in a way that displayed professionalism and self-respect, then it became more likely that other people would see me in such a frame, and treat me accordingly. My social life picked up momentum, and I got a lot more attention from women.
Moreover, I learned how to get past the shame of being different, and I began to have a little more fun as an adult professional.
All these changes started with a simple gift – a shirt and tie – and the message that it contained – that people respected me. I never knew it before, but it’s true – respect is an important foundation to a man’s identity.
Whenever you are looking for the right gift to give someone, I hope you’ll remember this story and choose a gift with FAITH. Choose a gift that contains a message of personal identity that continues to give and give as time goes on, and never underestimate the power of one simple gift to enhance the quality of another persons’ life.
This is the simple reason why Jesus is God’s gift to mankind, and why we give gifts at Christmas.