Friday, March 7, 2008

Successful Gift Giving

Today, having nothing on my mind in particular, I decided to write about how to give a gift that really wins. It does not always require a lot of money, nor does it require a lot of fanfare. It just takes thoughtfulness and time spent considering the person receiving it. I have generally been considered among friends and family to be a decent gift-giver, but I had a bit of an awakening about it one Christmas.

One of my brothers-in-law asked me, "So, what'd you get Ellie?" I told him she had already received it, because she wanted it early to use. He asked, "So, you got her somethin else for under the tree, right?"

The thought had occurred to me once or twice, but because of the extreme difficulty of getting a gift to her parents' house several thousand miles (and usually two flights and two drives) away kept me from it. So I said, "No, I didn't."

He thoughtI was joking. He ribbed me a minute, until he realize I was serious. Then I realized how thoughtless it was of me not to have a gift waiting for her under the tree. All it would have taken was a card reminding her I loved her and that she had already gotten enjoyment from the gift she wanted so much (we still use them to this day). For the record, I am grateful my brother-in-law admonished me, and I have done better every Christmas or birthday (and some holidays) since at giving something I know she would appreciate but would never expect.

The one that stands out the most, of course, was her marimba. I had promised her that I would get one as soon as we could afford it, and I checked around the music stores in a nearby city for where I might acquire one. The first store referred me to a man who hand builds them in that same town, and gave me his website to look up. I checked it out, Coe Percussion, and immediately felt good about it. I called him and asked if we could see some of his work before making a purchase decision, and he was more than happy to oblige. I ordered it after letting Ellie check him out with her former percussion professor and letting her choose the size and design she wanted. We still enjoy listening to her give our family concerts, helping her give recitals in town, and letting the kids play it (gently, of course). I've even learned to play two easy songs.

The second gift, though, that was nearly as well received, was a simple book on photography, which probably only cost ten to twelve dollars. I hid it in my bag all the way from home to her parents' house (I learned my lesson, it's not so hard), having bought it at least a month in advance. I got one of my wonderful sisters-in-law to wrap it for me (I do a terrible job at it), and it was waiting for her under the tree. She has bragged about that book to more friends than I can count. It clearly helped her photography skills, too, because she has learned how to get our two digital cameras to focus on what she wants, to take in more or less light, and to generally perform to her liking. We decorate our home primarily with photos she has taken with those cameras, and I'm sure she could sell the pictures professionally if she wanted to.

I didn't write this post as my entry for husband of the year. I am just writing to help anyone out there who worries about having to find extravagant gifts. Sometimes the best gift is as simple as a good book, a simple "I love you", or just a hug. Those kind of gifts can mean more than diamonds or gold. Thank you for helping me remember the importance of proper gift giving, my brother-in-law.

-- Robert


le35 said...

Although you are one of the all time best gift givers in the world, I think that you're right that sometimes, just the hug or I love you, or the remembering of a special day are really the most important thing. I have to say though, that my current birthday present has been a huge surprise, and I'm SO excited about it.

Robert said...

I hope you have a great time in Boston with your sisters. I'm sure it will be a blast.

Melissa said...

I totally agree with you. The best gifts are things that someone might want but would never buy for themselves. One of my favorite gifts ever was a set of pub glasses for our kitchen. Yeah, I'm weird...

Robert said...

The gifts I have enjoyed most have always been the ones I have given. It's not that I'm ungrateful, but I find more joy in giving that receiving. When my wife asks me what I want for my birthday, I ask if I can give her something oftentimes because that gives me more joy than almost any gift would. I have received some wonderful things over the years, to be sure, but I have definitely enjoyed the ones I have given most.