Gift giving has been a difficult topic to approach these last couple of years. I’ve written previously about my thoughts on gifts and my no-gift-giving letters, all efforts to eschew the matter entirely. I’ve written gift guides that hopefully elicit mindfulness. I’ve written how we can change the way younger generations view gift-giving. But still, the separation between theory and practice has been hard to achieve. Despite efforts on my family’s side to comply and efforts on my side to be understanding and grateful, disparities can be quite discouraging for both.
I had an aunt once thoughtfully purchase bars of soap without the wrapping, only to hand the stack of them surrounded by a wad of the thickest cellophane I’ve ever felt and, I kid you not, a number of bows, all in the name of “proper presentation”. And so I wrote about alternatives. I’ve had cases where family members would hear in passing of my desire for an article of clothing, and in an effort to give me my wish, they bought me a knock off of similar variety without any history regarding the maker, the working conditions of, or the source of material, all of which I heavily research before choosing to purchase. Likewise, there have been gifts that people thought would add to my home, but which unfortunately detracts from the peace.
I liken the experience to my childhood, when I would sit in a corner to read a book and all the well-meaning adults would send the kids my way to ask me to play. A declined invitation attributed to shyness. Stillness mistaken for boredom. Solidarity confused with loneliness. A personal preference completely misunderstood.
Despite all of this heartbreak, over the years, I’ve slowly learned. Not just on how to communicate better, but on how to re-frame all-together. Because at the root of all the misunderstanding is an honest desire to show love in the only ways people know how. I’ve found that sometimes asking for nothing isn’t the best course of action. This is because people are socially wired to give, with the act of giving tired to affection. So instead of saying, “Give me naught”, maybe the answer lies in the complete opposite. “Give me only one thing that is so specific it cannot be mistaken as something else.”
Case in point: last year Mike and I shared a joint birthday that was wildly successful. In it we requested that all gifts come in the form of a donation to an organization of our choosing. We wrote them a letter detailing the specs of the event, which you can find here. In exchange their donation bought them a ticket to a brunch at our house featuring the morning buns and croissants that would later become a favorite at the bakery. Together we raised enough money to feed 3,285 meals to Americans with food insecurity!
In a similar line of thought, this year I requested that loved ones support the bakery by purchasing baked goods. All profits will be put back into expanding the bakery in the form of buying utensils or ingredients, or paying for licenses and marketing. Although I took the month off to focus inward on my life journey thus far, I allowed for this one catered event to take place and am using the bakery as my way of thanking the ones I love most dear for being a part of my life. It’s a win-win system in that the guests get to take home something made by myself for their own families, and I feel as if my gifts are well-earned. Additionally, it makes it easier to sleep at night knowing that their gifts create a meaningful impact without harboring waste, impact which include the supporting of local farmers and projects preserving ancient heritage grains, as well as the spreading of healthful, gut-friendly bread.
Which goes to show that maybe telling people how to show affection isn’t as effective as showing affection in return. With these last two birthdays in tow, I think we are finally moving the needle forward.
For other specific asking of gifts, try here.