I have, in the past, been guilty of buying presents for people with the sole intention of amusing them. I now realise that the laughter will only have lasted for a few moments, whereas the need for dusting, and ultimately the irritation, will have been ongoing. So, first of all, an apology. After writing this, I will be turning over a new leaf.
My mother in law once made, what I suspect, was a grave error. She let her friends and family know that she loves elephants.
It was a grave error because her house is now so jam packed with elephants of all shapes and sizes as to represent a wild life scandal. She has elephant salt and pepper pots, elephant mugs, elephant duvet covers, elephant stationery holders, elephant salad utensils, stuffed furry elephants, elephant pictures, elephant plant pot holders, lamps and door mats, and elephant ornaments are three deep on every possible horizontal surface of her house. She actually reached such a point of desperation last year, that she very sweetly asked if the world would please desist from making elephant orientated purchases for her.
We do like to buy presents for those we love. And, actually, in certain situations, we sometimes seem to feel the need to buy presents for those we barely know.
There is such a demand for ’things’ to buy as presents, that there are now shops that specialise in different and original ’stuff’ on every high street. They base their entire business strategy on the misguided generosity that can result in the delighted exclamation “oh, that would do for Grandma!”
I think the polite term is ’novelty’ shops. Those that are aware of the size of the rubbish island in the Pacific Ocean have another term for it.
I never used to understand why my grand-mother would never tell me what she wanted for a present. “Save your money”, she’d say. I thought she was just being nice. When I was in my twenties, and starting a home of my own, I couldn’t undersatnd why anyone wouldn’t want more things to fill their empty home with. I have now grasped that she was actually saying “please don’t give me any more ’stuff’ that I’m obliged to keep, to treasure, and to find a home for.”
Now I understand.
There was once a time when, every Christmas, men were given underpants, pullovers, handkerchiefs and socks; women were given smaller handkerchiefs, knickers, tights and slippers, along with a few smelly things to put in the bath. But somewhere back in the mists of time, some higher wisdom informed us that those were the ’uncool’ presents that no one wanted. Now there are retailers specialising in things that we really want. And their vastly superior knowledge (no doubt accompanied by rigorous market research) assures us that what-men-want are nose and ear hair trimmers, miniature golf sets and pool tables, lots of advanced calculators (because one’s never enough), electric fans that will display LED messages for us (are you serious?) And all kinds of incredibly expensive executive toys. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone yet, that if a man loves playing snooker, he doesn’t automatically continue to love it when the scale is reduced to four inches by six inches, and comes from China.
Oh, and judging by an awful lot of shops in numerous shopping arcades up and down the country, women want ornaments. Hundreds of them. Apparently we’re desperate for cute kittens, cute puppies, bunnie wunnies, anything you can think of that can be made of glass, low grade silver, shiny fabric, straw, wood, or – and I shudder to say it – plastic. Am I beginning to rant here? But then, of course, we women just love dusting don’t we? There’s nothing we like being given more than something else to dust.
NO WE DON’T!
So many of us will go through agonies trying to work out what the perfect present is for someone, and, the truth is probably that if they don’t want something functional and in likely need of regular replacement, then they probably don’t want anything at all.
But, to all those who you love enough to want to give them something, what they really value is you. Your presence in their lives; smiles, laughter, memories. And whilst we in the Western world really don’t need anything, the truth is that there are people in the emerging world who really do need all kinds of things. Why not consider adopting a child on a Compassion project as a present, or buying something from World Vision, Oxfam or one of the other aid organisations who are desperately trying to relieve suffering in other parts of the world. With the catastrophic events in Nepal recently we really can make a difference to individual lives through gifts we can choose to make…
Oh and on a personal note, to all of those of my own nearest and dearest who might glance at this, one last thing – if the drive is so overwhelming to put something that has to be unwrapped in Kevin’s or my hands, then at the time of writing this blog, there are two hundred and forty shopping days to Christmas (the need for taking Sundays out of the maths being sadly obviated). Knickers and handkerchiefs please. And Kevin needs pullovers; no one has given him one for years and it’s getting desperate. He loves getting socks, and I love it when he gets more handkerchiefs.
And no more novelty potato peelers please, the kitchen drawer is getting difficult to close.
To give to the dec appeal for the Nepal Earthquake please PLEASE consider giving a gift (that is more personal and meaningful than a furry elephant!) by visiting Tearfund’s website and their Nepal appeal.