Yesterday, I walked through one of Toronto’s busiest and noisiest malls on my way to a very serene place – a lush, fragrant and colourful series of greenhouses lit by candlelight. As I navigated my way through the crowds and passed store after store brimming with customers, I thought about the people who were passing me laden with shopping bags and patiently or impatiently standing in long lines waiting to make purchases that were just right or good enough and much more than they intended to spend in the first place.
Over the past month, I have received two unforgettable and two forgettable gifts. Both of the unforgettable gifts were from two very special and amazing people. They both involved music which is a source of much happiness: sensational seats to the opera on Valentine’s Day and three phenomenal CDs that I have not stopped listening to since I received them. It was clear that both of these gifts were given with simple sincerity. I was thrilled to receive them and I acknowledged the grace, gratitude, generosity and greatness of these two individuals. They gave me another gift with their simple and sincere gifts: the important lesson that to give gifts with simple sincerity whatever their value are gifts from the heart that truly strengthen the bonds between the giver and the receiver.
The two forgettable gifts were an unwelcome surprise and caused me to question not only the intention of the individuals but also the status of my relationships with them. Up until the moment that I received both of these gifts, I had a great deal of trust in and respect for both of these individuals and now wondered if these gifts represented a breach of trust and an absence of respect for me. How much had the gifts changed my perception of and relationship with these individuals? Perhaps these gifts were intended to be given with simple sincerity but to me they were definitely given with onerous obligation. It remains to be seen how much these gifts will impact my relationships with these individuals in the long term. In the short term, one of the individuals has gone a long way to repair the damage. I realized that his intention was to give a gift with simple sincerity and he was truly horrified and humbled when he realized that not only was the wrong gift delivered but that it also seemed like a gift that was given with onerous obligation. His apology has gone a long way to restore my trust and faith in him and put the relationship back on the right track. The other individual grabbed an old personal grooming item that had been collecting dust in a closet for at least four years. This was indeed a gift that had been given with onerous obligation. It remains to be seen if the damage caused to our relationship by this gift can be repaired in the New Year. The year 2013 is beginning on a note of good fortune and graceful forgiveness. On January 1, I was surprised and delighted to receive a warm and wonderful gift from this individual that was given with simple sincerity with an honest and heartfelt note indicating a sincere desire to make up for the previous gift.
So if you have bought your gifts, are thinking about the gifts that you need to buy, are sitting at your computer shopping on-line or are planning to go to the mall to shop tomorrow, think about the gifts that you are buying: are you giving them with simple sincerity or onerous obligation?
One final note: after I completed this post, I went on my weekly shopping trip to the market with my life partner. He is a very loyal customer so we always go to the same shops every week. At the fruit and vegetable store, we chose and paid for our items and the woman that we see every week presented us with a beautiful red poinsetta. We were touched and thrilled by the gesture. The woman at the shop where we purchase our nuts, grains and spices gave us each a handful of the largest walnuts we had ever seen. Both of these women gave their gifts with simple sincerity. Remember when you give a gift during the holiday season or throughout the year, whatever its value, give it with simple sincerity and create a wonderful memory rather than with onerous obligation which is worse than giving no gift at all.