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Gifts that really give

Fri, Jun 20th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Look around your house. Is yours, like mine, full of things you really don't need, or never use? How many of these things were gifts - gifts of love, perhaps - but things you could get rid of and not miss? It is high time that I weeded out. How about you?

This brings me to other thoughts about gifts and giving, and how to give and perhaps make a difference. These are also ways which could make gift-giving "greener" and be of help in these tough economic times.

Maybe people you know and love would enjoy having some of the things you own. (Don't give them just to get rid of them, and not to the people who gifted you with those items.) Perhaps there is something meaningful from past generations that should be passed on, or something that would be a welcome addition to someone else's collection, or that another could really put to good use.

There is a nation-wide organization which challenges people not to buy anything new for at least a year, other than food and paper products. Just out of curiosity, I wandered through the Goodwill Store one day, looking for things I could use as gifts for my children and grandchildren. In just that trip, I found gifts that would be suitable and enjoyable for each person. A few more trips to The Depot, the Salvation Army Store or back to Goodwill could take care of Christmas and birthdays this year. There is nothing wrong with buying and/or giving gently-used items. When my mom was in a nursing home, I purchased good-looking outfits for her at Goodwill, and my younger daughter, who makes a healthy salary, never pays full price for anything, and buys all of her jeans and casual work slacks at Saver's or Goodwill.

Several wedding couples and birthday celebrants I know have requested any gifts to them be made instead to a favorite charity: The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Cancer, the Heifer Project. . . . They are aware that they have all they need to live comfortably, and would like to contribute to help those who are in need. This might sound like a hard sell in our consumer society, particularly for children, but it is never too early to teach generosity and concern for others less fortunate.

If you still feel a need to give a tangible gift, how about choosing something that could be a healthy addition to the life of the recipient? Exercise equipment or a gym membership for adults, outdoor playthings for children, such as a run-through hose device, a pogo stick---anything that would encourage physical movement and fresh air, rather than T V and video games. There are video games now that require physical participation by the watchers. A gift that will give benefits at a later date might be a bond, or a trust fund, or a savings account that can't be accessed until a certain time or occasion. This kind of gift could add to an educational fund, retirement savings, or a rainy-day emergency account.

The act of giving is wonderful for both giver and recipient. It can be an art, a truly creative, thoughtful process. Look around you, use your ingenuity, picture the person to whom you are giving, and see if it can't be a joyful, caring experience of a slightly different sort.

Jeanne Martin lives in Mabel.

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