Sign up to be notified of new posts and comments.
While Larry and I practice our lifely principles every day in every way we can think of and actually do, for us this extends to gift-giving too.
And while we no longer participate in “obligatory” gifts, we do give meaningful gifts to a small group of people close to us, and when we do give gifts we take the opportunity to give gifts that are “life-giving.”
A life-giving gift is one that contributes positively to the life of the recipient and also to all Life.
One year, long ago, for example, I gave everyone a bag of organically-grown oranges. They were new at the time and I had just had a life-changing experience of actually tasting an orange for the first time that didn’t have chemicals sprayed on the skin to retard mildew. It was actually one of the contributing factors for me in my switch to organic food and I wanted everyone I knew to taste the difference. I attached a little note making it clear these were organic oranges and explained why they were special. Everyone loved them. It provided a pleasure for the recipients and supported the life of the Earth. I still like to give food as gifts, particularly foods I’ve handmade myself from organic ingredients. It just encourages recipients to eat in a more life-giving way.
Another time, also many years ago, when Larry and I were just starting out together and needed things like dining room chairs, we decided we wanted a set of four Shaker chairs. But they cost $180 each just to buy a kit. So we asked both our families to give us only gifts of money towards buying four Shaker chairs for Christmas and birthdays until we had enough to buy four kits. It took a few Christmases and birthdays, but we finally did accumulate enough money to buy the kits and then assembled the chairs with our own hands. This involved weaving the seats with cotton tapes under-and-over and under-and-over, but when we look at these beautiful chairs and sit on them, we remember that they were literally built with our love and the love of our families.
Over the years, we’ve come up with some guidelines for choosing life-giving gifts.
Gifts of Love
This is a gift where you do something for a loved one that would be special or important for them and really make them feel loved. Maybe they are looking for something and you could find it. Or you could cook dinner. Or anything you can think of that would make them feel loved. One year my father gave me a record album (back when there were records) autographed by Luciano Pavarotti. I loved Pavarotti. My father stood in line for several hours to get that autograph. Another time a close friend gave me a whole bag of little gifts, each one very thoughtfully chosen to relate to our experience together.
Gifts of Time
Now this is very close to a gift of love because simply spending time with someone will make them feel loved. Especially if you don’t spend much time with someone who wants more time with you. Give them time as a gift. Schedule the time, invite them to spend that time with you. Put your invitation in a card or box so it’s clearly a gift. It’s especially a gift if you spend time doing something that they love. It could be as simple as time to talk, or a bike ride or a lunch. The important thing is time.
Gifts of Knowledge
The field is wide open on this one. There are so many books and courses available that provide life-enhancing information. What came to mind for me when I thought of writing this was a gift my father gave to me so many years ago. I might have been in my teens. He gave me a copy of Larousse Gastronomique, which is the book of all books about food. It’s a big, thick, expensive book that I wouldn’t have known to buy for myself. But he wanted me to have the classic text about food and that was the book.
Gifts of Necessity
Some of the gifts that have made me the happiest have been when I was given something I really needed and wanted but couldn’t get for myself for whatever reason. I remember a friend of mine telling me about how her husband had given her a winter coat when they were dating, which meant everything to her because she couldn’t afford to buy one for herself. I showed her that he would take care of her. As I’ve been researching Lifely, I have come to learn the importance of fulfilling needs in life. I know when my needs are met, I can do other things in life, and when they are not met, life is more difficult. In a society where more attention is give to luxuries than needs, a gift that fulfills a need can be very appreciated and important.
Gifts of Money
While gifts of money can seem impersonal, sometimes it is actually the perfect gift. I am never offended to receive a gift card. It gives me an opportunity to go buy whatever I want. But especially now, the best gift might be to pay a past due bill to keep the lights on, if that's what it needed. Or money to buy food. Or make a donation to a community assistance organization, or a business that's trying to stay in business. My local independent movie theater is struggling to hold on without government assistence. Money is needed everywhere this holiday season.
Gifts of Experience
For people close to me, I like to give gifts of experience, and I like to receive them too. I would much rather spend the evening having a nice meal as a gift than have a material object I don’t need or want. Or going to a movie. I know we can’t do these things now with covid, but the idea is to find an experience you can share—whatever it is. The gift is making all the arrangements and making it happen.
This year Larry and I decided to use our holiday gift money to spend two nights at a hotel on the beach that we really like. We don’t need any physical objects, but what we do need is time alone. And that is our life-giving gift to each other this year.
See also The Perfect Rice Pot for another story about a life-giving gift Larry and I gave each other one year.