Friday, November 28, 2014

A Theory of Gift Giving--Antidote to "Black Friday"

Today is called "Black Friday." The very name makes me nauseous. This is not a name I grew up with; it is a recent invention (that info is for the benefit of young people--the name is neither historical nor inevitable). This is the day we are supposed to spend and buy until we are broke and cross-eyed. This, we are led to believe, is part of the raison d'etre of being an American: "shop until you drop." Thankfully, many people are rejecting this perverse theology. They know that as human beings we are much more than what we buy and what presents we receive.

A teacher I had when a student at the University of Notre Dame, Sr. Franzita Kane CSC (Sister Franzita was a professor at St. Mary's College, across the road from Notre Dame), once told us her philosophy of gift giving. She had an anti-materialistic view of gifts. Gifts should be given freely, with no hope or expectation that you will get something in return. Gifts are always symbolic, and should be selected with that in mind. Gifts should not be utilitarian (at least on a primary level--as with people, a gift's purpose is not primarily for its usefulness). Gifts should be accepted gracefully and gratefully--we must allow people to give gifts, not always turn them away or pooh-pooh gift giving--it takes some humility to accept a gift.

With a philosophy like this, you probably won't be going out on "Black Friday" fighting your way through a shopping mall to buy gifts for people you love. You might be at home making something, writing a poem, sewing, knitting, cross-stitching, painting a picture, etc. You might be going to displays of handmade arts and crafts trying to pick out a simple gift that perfectly fits someone and is appropriate for your relationship with that person.

This is one reason I will write poems for a couple of friends and why I will buy a few simple handmade gifts at the Holden Arboretum Christmas craft sale. Link to Holden's Christmas Sale.

Thanks to Sr. Franzita Kane for this refreshing, even revolutionary, philosophy of gift giving.

This handmade quilt was a retirement gift for Linda from her colleagues.

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