December 18, 2013

Hate the Gift? Be Gracious Anyway

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gift stackLast year my mother gave me a spatula for Christmas. A special long one that allows me to flip tilapia and other foods more easily. The year before it was a frying pan with a lid. I pretty much use that every day.

These are gifts that to some might seem mundane or impersonal. But my Italian mother is excited that every time we’re on the phone I’m talking about the last delicious thing I cooked. These gifts are oh so personal. I love her encouragement.

Give, give, give and give some more. That’s what so many of us are focused on this time of year and it’s so lovely if often adrenaline-filled.

But I think what’s much overlooked is the art of receiving with grace.

I once thanked someone for a pair of socks that were purple and black, noting that they’d go perfectly with a few new purple items in my wardrobe. The person who gave them to me said, “Oh my God, I’ve never seen anybody get so excited over a pair of socks.”

I’m proud of that. If I’m going to Live Riveted to something in this realm, it’s going to be appreciating that someone spent time selecting something for me. I’m going to receive it graciously. I can keep to myself thoughts like “It’s never going to fit” or “This goes with nothing in my wardrobe” or “This is OK but where’s my cashmere sweater?” Or the eye roll or pouty face.

Even if we’re in utter shock at what we see as a ridiculous gift, we can muster a smile and a “thank you.” That’s it. Simple. Thank a person for the thought. The thought is something. A big something.

There is so much that comes with this time of year. The desire to shop. The desire to avoid shopping. The need to please. The complete disconnect from what a loved one likes. The pressure. The entitlement. Perhaps we can take all that into consideration when we scoff as we tear off the paper or toss out a dismissive comment. Haven’t we all been on the giving or receiving end of those?

Maybe we need to ask ourselves, when is the last time a gift really lit us up? Why did it do that? Was it a surprise? Something we requested? Did we allow someone the freedom of finding something that we’d like? Or did we hyper-control the selection?

There’s a part of me that cringes at this topic because I realize there are so many people who won’t be receiving gifts or who will be grateful for anything they receive. But I think it’s worth looking within on this, asking ourselves if we’re graceful at receiving others’ thoughtfulness or if we take it for granted or come in with loaded expectations.

So much has been written about gratitude the last few weeks and this comes right back to that. If we cultivate that, are mindful of blessings, the rest just feels better. I will be with my family on Christmas and we’ll exchange gifts. I have decided the best thing to do is detach from the result. In other words, my gifts are being given with love and good intent. I can’t control how they’re received. It’s all OK. I love my family.

I will give and receive with grace. That’s the very least I can do.

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