What is it with Giving?
Why do we feel compelled to give, even when we know the person we are giving to, wants for nothing?
You may see this as a nice thing, and I agree, the sentiment is nice, but I’m am no longer sure that it is the right thing to do.
I have started thinking about this more and more as My Make Do and Mend Year has progressed. When you are having to make a present, or find ingenious ways to get people something secondhand that they might actually want, you inevitably start to think a it more about what you are giving. And whether or not the recipient might actually want or need what you are giving them.
I think I am fairly safe in saying that 99.99% of the gifts that we have given over the last 9 months or so, have not in anyway been needed. They may not even have been wanted. So what are we doing? Why, in our society is there this need to give ‘stuff’ to people who already have lots and lots of ‘stuff’ and really don’t need or possibly even want, anymore ‘stuff’?
Take Christmas as a prime example. A generation or two ago, kids would have got one present, often an item of clothing that they might actually have really needed, or a big thing like a bike that they had been wanting and wanting for AGES. And if they were very lucky, a small stocking, with a satsuma, and some nuts, and penknife or something else equally unsuitable (or am I being hopelessly nostalgic..?)
But now, Christmas starts with the Advent Calendar, and if you are not careful, that alone can cost £50 (a small gift every day for 24 days…). Then there are the enormous stockings that we all somehow feel compelled to stuff with MORE toys, before we even get to the main event. And that’s just the kids.
Why do we feel it necessary to buy other grown ups, who probably have disposable income and already buy themselves pretty much whatever they want, something, anything, that they might vaguely want. When actually, they probably don’t really want it, as they have already bought themselves everything they might possibly want, and we can’t think of anything they might want that they don’t already have, so we buy them some awful novelty Christmas gift in a panic, as we HAVE to buy them something.
I used to just do it. And not even really think about it. But now I have stopped to think about it, it just seems so wrong, on so many levels:
- Most of us have enough stuff. If we suddenly decide we want some more stuff, we just go and buy it. Gone are the days of waiting for a special occasion, or even waiting until we have enough money-isn’t that what credit cards are for..?
- Our houses and lives are cluttered with stuff. We get given even more stuff every birthday and Christmas. We somehow manage to shoehorn it in and find a space for it. And then at some point it gets thrown away. Hopefully it goes to the charity shop, or is car-booted and can live again, but it might just go in the bin. And go to landfill.
- We are using our planet’s precious and rapidly dwindling resources to make all this stuff, while there are people on the other side of the world, who can’t get enough food to eat.
- When we are bored with the stuff, we throw it away, and it goes to landfill, and landfill is nearly full.
What are we doing? When did it become expected that once or twice a year, we would go to the shops and buy something, anything, for someone we may only see once or twice a year, so we don’t really know them that well, and don’t really know what they want or like, but we know we should be spending about £x?
It’s crazy when you stop and think about it.
Even with our Smalls. They have ENOUGH STUFF. THEY DO NOT NEED ANYMORE STUFF. And yet, I still found myself unable to say to people when they asked what they should get them for Christmas, “NOTHING”. I would have felt mean. I would have felt like I was not only ‘depriving’ my children, but also that I was depriving the giver of the opportunity to give.
When did love, or even just a family tie, come down to a £20 gift twice a year?
Wouldn’t it be so much nicer to stop and really think about not only what we are giving but WHY we are giving?
Shouldn’t it be enough to all get together for a family meal or a day out? Or to make a cake, or offer an evening’s babysitting?
Am I being mean? I don’t know. And I still feel the need to give as much as the next person, and that it would be rude not to. But I don’t really know why…