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Bon Journal

Gift for the giving

During my college years, I gave my brother T-shirts and sweatshirts from different colleges I visited in passing. Hoping to inspire him, I never expected that he would keep them all, even after he outgrew them.

He told me that gifts were special. "You must keep them. You can't give them to someone else."

I remember the first birthday party I had ever attended. My father took our bamboo plates painted with traditional Chinese women and told me to give them to my birthday friend. I'll never forget the look of disappointment on her face when she opened this useless gift. I remember my shame and guilt. I had not gone out to buy a gift just for her.

In my teens, I got into sewing and cooking. For my neighbour's 18th birthday, I made a flowery cotton top just for her. I wrapped it and presented it to her in a box, as if it was from a designer shop. Sensing it wasn't her style, I felt disappointed and vowed never to give to the unappreciative.

We all have unwanted gifts which we would gladly give to those who would appreciate them. Would the giver of these gifts be pleased that you gave them away? Or that you never used them?

What about gifts you buy for someone but weren't able to give to that person? Would it be a sin to give it to someone else as if you had bought it for that person in the first place?

It would be fine if the recipient never knew the history of the gift purchase. But it would be betrayal if you presented it in sincerity and the recipient found out the truth later.

Gift giving is a sensitive subject, if true intentions were known. One friend buys Christmas gifts throughout the year, in her travels, so that she wouldn't have to go through the Christmas shopping rush.

As for me, I prefer to make them myself. Now I have several jars of fresh berry jam to give away. And certainly, the best gifts I've ever received were hand-made: music, art, ...., and the birth of my cat.

7 July 2001