“…gifts bespeak relationship. Not just the simple binary relationship of two men in a cafe, either, nor that of friends and lovers: gifts do not just move, they move outward into some larger circle.”
-Lewis Hyde “The Gift”
We don’t need any more stuff.
It could be that I’m overwhelmed with house rehab or the weight of the season or the simple truth that gift giving has never been my forte but the reality of purchasing gifts for people is pressing in on me today.
Only xx more days of shopping!
I hate shopping.
Lately I’ve been running my fingers over a new book. “The Gift” by Lewis Hyde showed up one day on the coffee table. Dave purchased it on the advice of at least one wise friend and he’s been working his way through it over the last few weeks, stopping sometimes mid paragraph to look up at me and say with all kinds of seriousness, “You really need to read this too.” I nod and make a mental note to do just that and then promptly fail to do just that. I have picked through the first pages and affirmed that indeed, this is a good idea until life gets in the way and steers me away from the coffee table where the book rests, winking at me and whispering encouraging things.
When the book comes up in our conversations (though I’ve only dipped my toe into its waters) what surfaces most is the idea that a gift is always in motion. When we clamp onto a gift, squirrel it away, lock it up or generally stop the motion of the gift then it loses some vital piece, some real, tangible, beautiful, life-giving property. It becomes just more stuff. And maybe that’s what bothers me so much about shopping for everyone at Christmas. It’s already outside of my natural leanings, this idea of gift giving. I’d much prefer to write you a note or offer some small well-considered token of my love. Nobody I know needs more stuff.
So this thought today keeps coming back around, the thought that a gift ought to be moving, always moving. It’s a big ask of my children I guess, this close to Christmas, that we forego the traditional gift exchange and branch out into uncharted territory of gifts in motion and yet it continues to gnaw at me, just getting or giving more “stuff.”
The best thought I have today is a small start. I think about the stigma I’ve always felt about “re-gifting” things or offering up something “used” or “unwanted” where gifts are concerned. I think about the “white elephant” game in particular, about getting rid of something we don’t want and I wonder what it might look like to instead choose something I love, something I value and care about and give that away. I wonder how it might sound in a group of people, having drawn names of gifts to give, to say, “Here is this thing I love, this thing I value and care about…and I’m offering it to you as a gift.”
I admit, I’m not entirely sure what it would even look like in practice. It’s more about a shift in perception perhaps this year, a new way of understanding the idea of gifts. In any case, the direction feels right because nobody I know needs more stuff.