Gift giving shouldn’t send anyone on a guilt trip

Gift giving and receiving can be an iffy, and sometimes touchy, bit of business.

santa patti
patti dawn swansson

If you give a gift to that person, must you also give a gift to that other person? If you receive a gift, must you also give a gift? If someone doesn’t like your gift, do you make a mental note of it and scratch him/her off your list? If you spend this much money on that person’s gift, must you also spend an equal amount on that other person’s gift?

I don’t pretend to be an expert on gift giving/receiving etiquette. I only know what does and doesn’t work for me.

Here’s what works for me…

I met with one of my dearest friends at a pub late Friday afternoon. I had a small gift package for her and another for a mutual friend, whom, apparently, has gone into a witness protection program (I haven’t seen her for two years). Lucy chose to open her gifts at the pub, and she seemed genuinely appreciative and expressed her thanks.

I love it,” she said. “I can’t wait to read the book.”

I, on the other hand, chose to wait until I arrived home to open the gifts Lucy had given me. I then sent her a brief but warm thank-you missive, expressing my delight with the trinkets and the enjoyable two hours we had spent together at the pub.

It was a pleasant exchange of gifts and sentiments.

Now, here’s what doesn’t work for me…

Knowing that three of my favorite people would be having their annual Christmas party on Sunday night, I visited one of them on Saturday afternoon.

I won’t be at your party tomorrow night,” I advised him with a cherry smile, “so I come bearing gifts today.”

Oh, Patti, I wish you hadn’t done that,” was his immediate response, delivered in a tone and with a look that suggested he was either annoyed or offended.

I wanted to do it. You and the others have been very kind to me over the years and I like to show my gratitude.”

But I feel bad about you spending your money that way. You shouldn’t be doing that.”

He was actually scolding me.

I do it because I care,” I said, before adding (in a bit of a biting voice), “please don’t spoil this for me.”

I understood where he had been coming from in his initial hesitancy to embrace my gesture. He’s aware that I’m a retiree living in poverty. He reasons that I should be spending my meager pension monies on food or clothing rather than on him and other friends. He’s very thoughtful that way. His heart is in the right place.

But his bedside manner was lacking. I didn’t expect, or need, the guilt trip.

He soon enough warmed to my gesture and repeatedly thanked me, but the original to-and-fro was most discomforting. I hurt mildly and the exchange put me in ponder of gift giving/receiving etiquette.

Again, I’m no expert on such matters, but it seems to me that a simple “Thank you, that’s so thoughtful,” is the gracious way to accept a gift.

It’s the giving, not the receiving, that is the great gift. Why spoil it for someone?


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