This morning Sam and I took Holly dog for her walk together. We needed to talk. All was not well. A measure of discord stalked the home. Last night Sam had stated that he really didn’t enjoy going to the Wenlock Christmas Fayre and he didn’t like the movie, Elf which, if you have been following my Yule posts, you will know is tantamount to heresy in our house. Now, he is a teenager and may well have been pressing our buttons for the sake of being awkward – a distinctive talent of the teenager. Nonetheless, the ‘discussion’ that followed threw up some interesting issues regarding our Christmas habits particularly around the topic of the giving of gifts. I fear that I failed to fully articulate my feelings on the subject at the time. Plus I have been thinking about what was said. So, what follows is for the consideration of my son, Sam.
Sam asked, “Do you or do you not want a present?”
I answered, “No, I don’t want a present, but I would like it if you got me one.”
which I appreciate might sound deliberately evasive. What I mean is that I don’t desire any particular thing from you but I would like to know that you have thought about me. The physical present is not important. The care that it symbolises is. I think that is why we give gifts – to express our care for a person. It annoys me when I see adverts on the tv encouraging people to buy gifts for “only £300”. There is a not very well hidden pressure to spend what seems to me a ridiculous amount of money. And along with that comes an implication that the more you spend on a person, the more you love them. This, to me, is obscene and clearly done mainly for the benefit of the merchant selling the present. Both gift giver and gift receiver are being exploited. Pressure is being applied to encourage people to spend more than they can afford. But worse then that, an equation is being made between love and material gain that is a lie. A lie that spiritually and emotionally impoverishes those that listen. If you listen you will hear that if you don’t buy your son the new Playstation you don’t really love him. Crazy talk. So, don’t listen – turn off your tv and talk to each other instead. If you talk you stand a chance of getting to know the person. If you get to know the person you stand a chance of finding out what they need to make them happy. (This takes time and patience as most people don’t really know what they need so can’t directly tell you. It is often easier for a friend to see what a person needs rather than the actual person.) If you know what they need you stand a chance of finding them a present that has real value to them largely because it shows that you understand them as a person.
So, son, I would like you to give me a present that shows you know me. It doesn’t matter how much or how little it costs. It can’t be the wrong choice. It doesn’t matter if I don’t like it. It doesn’t matter if you spend hours looking for it or it just comes to you in a flash. All that matters is that you think about me as you find it and that it in some way articulates what you feel I need. Then it will be useful to me. And to you.
And even if you get me no present at all, I will still love you. And assume that I need nothing.