What is your favorite gift you’ve ever received? Favorite gift you’ve ever given? What are the many meanings of the word “gift,” and how do all of these concepts operate in your life?
Perhaps you’ve seen on my Instagram post that I am doing a giveaway this week. If you’re not an IGer and want to enter, click the link in my blog to receive notifications when I make my posts and enter your email address; once I get the WordPress notification that you’ve joined, I will add you to my spreadsheet of entries. For now, I also want to take a moment to reflect on the questions I pose above.
For obvious reasons, my Canon Camera is one of my favorite gifts I’ve ever received, though I have received many beautiful presents. One of my favorite gift-giving moments was when I hand-painted little boxes of meditation cards for friends and family for the holidays. Another favorite moment was when I made donations in each of my recipients’ names to a land trust organization. But my favorite gift of all time is one that I both gave and received. I carry it around in my car most of the time still…
What is it? A rock. Yes, you read that right. It is about three and a half inches long, and about an inch and a half around. In faded red marker I can still make out “To Grammie” on one side, and “From Erin” on the other. When I was little, it was the most precious treasure I could think of to offer my grandmother. When she passed away, it found me again. She kept it all those years. It is now a reminder to me of the magic of time, the strength in love, and appreciation for simple things. Here it is:
Which brings me to the meaning of presents. If you’ll excuse me while I wax linguistic on a Sunday afternoon, the word itself, “present,” is interesting, as it can mean both “gift” and “here-and-now.” As all the maxims, clichès, koans, and colloquialisms have it, the best gift is often the here-and-now. The best present is the present. I don’t have anything new to add, except that all of this being said, in many of my communities, the gifting of things is a frequent practice. This sometimes gets me in trouble!
So, how do we combine the joys of giving and receiving (both can be important ways of sharing love) with an awareness of consumption and our impact on the planet? Like I said when I began this blog, I don’t have answers, and my practices are far from perfect. But I do have stories and ideas to share in the hope of inspiring others. Making art projects, especially out of biodegradable materials, is one way. Making donations to earth-sustaining organizations is another way.
For the giveaway I am doing now, I decided on items that are made to last rather than to be disposed of (like the Jansport backpack that comes with a lifetime guarantee), and food items from healthy companies that practice some level of social awareness. Several of the items I got from a nearby “overstock” shop, which both supports a local business and salvages what might have been thrown away otherwise. Are the markers still plastic? Yes. Is all the paper recycled? No. But I did make choices thoughtfully as I was selecting items to show my appreciation for all of you following my digital journey. And that’s the key piece: appreciation.
It is nice to feel appreciated as well as heart-warming to show appreciation. Sometimes we express this experience through gifts, tangible and otherwise. What we need is a whole new system, a whole new way of being human together on this planet. I will be working towards that new way, at the same time as I will be sorting through the less-than-ideal options that exist. Because I do think that appreciation is part of sustainability. Let’s keep learning together about the magic of time, the strength in love, and the power of simple things.