I’m a terrible gift-giver.
While it’s supposed to be the thought that counts, like with so many other things, I think I have a tendency to overthink it.
I even have trouble getting gifts for myself. I can past the “should I really be spending money on this?” moment — I wouldn’t call it guilt, but I still have the mindset from those days when I had to balance the checkbook down to the last penny.
And then when it comes to picking out whatever it is I want to treat myself to, well, that process can take hours. It doesn’t matter if it’s a candy bar or a mountain bike. I will weigh all the options, balance the features I want and the ones I really don’t need, and then think about it some more.
I should note, I actually enjoy the process. Half the fun of picking out some new gadget or gear is picturing how you’re going to use it. It reminds me of the hours I used to spend going through the toy section of the Sears catalog as a kid, or the time I spend today daydreaming about getting out of the office to go for a ski or a bike ride.
However, it’s gotten to the point that my wife will not go shopping with me. Or, if she does, she will “encourage” me to make up my mind a little quicker. In fact, that’s how I ended up picking my mountain bike — after spending longer than she would have liked pondering the benefits of different wheel sizes and suspension travel, she finally said, “Get this one so we can go.”
Anyway, when it comes to choosing gifts for others, I’m even worse. And I usually don’t have anybody looking over my shoulder to tell me, “Get this one and let’s get going.”
Part of my poor gift giving probably comes from being a poor gift receiver. I know that it’s the thought that counts, but sometimes it’s hard to imagine what someone was thinking when they picked a gift out. It actually helps when I get a gift that comes with an explanation. It’s like when my junior high school math teacher used to require that we “show our work” — I might have come to the wrong conclusion, but at least he could see how I got there.
More and more, when someone asks me what I want for Christmas, my answer is “time.” It’s something my dad used to say, and I used to think he was just being weird and melancholy. He always used to sort of stare off into the distance when he said it, as though it was something he once had and would never get back.
But I’ve come to realize that the most valuable thing we have to give is our time. It’s one of the few things we say we can never have enough of. There’s a whole industry built around how to manage it better. “Taking my time” sometimes feels like a luxury I can’t afford.
I’m trying to be better about showing gratitude, and I’d like to say thank you to everyone who gives of their time — whether it’s volunteering, taking the time to help someone else, giving a loved one your undivided attention, or just spending a few extra minutes to put some thought into a gift.
And maybe that’s what I need to do to be a better gift giver and receiver. Instead of focusing on the gift, I should think about the time invested in the act of giving — that’s where the value is.
I’ll have to think about it.
Will Morrow lives in Kenai. If you have time, you can email him at email@example.com.