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COLUMN: To give and to receive

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By Shannon Brock

One of my best friends recently became a mother, and I, along with our other friends, am completely smitten with her beautiful daughter, Cecelia.
I wanted to get baby CeCe a gift for Christmas, and ended up settling on an ornament her parents can love now and she can appreciate in the future. It is personalized to serve as a memento of her first Christmas.
Because I wanted the family to be able to enjoy the gift this holiday season, I gave it to my friend this past weekend. I was so excited to see her face when she opened it that I couldn’t wait any longer, and her reaction was even better than I expected.
This gift-giving incident got me thinking more than it probably should have. I started pondering on why we give gifts — not what the gifts represent, dating back to the first Christmas, but just philosophically thinking about why we, as human as we are, give gifts.
I was reminded (as I am frequently) of an episode of “Friends” where Phoebe accepts the challenge of finding a completely selfless good deed.
Her efforts range from letting a bee sting her (before she realizes the bee will most likely die after the sting, which would cancel out the goodness of the deed) to donating to an organization she despises.
In the end, her donation puts her friend, Joey, into the spotlight for reaching a particular goal during a telethon. She feels good about being the one to put her friend in such a great position, therefore, undoing the selflessness of the good deed.
So I pose the question, is it really better to give than to receive? Or, is it possible to give without receiving something, even if that something is just a warm, fuzzy feeling inside?
Clearly, I love giving gifts, but, being honest with myself, if I didn’t have at least one gift to open this Christmas season, I’d be a sad Shannon for sure.
Chastise me, if you must, but it’s pretty fun to receive, too.
You could even say that the fear of not receiving gifts motivates us to give them. See, I would argue that all of us have experienced the fear of going gift-less. It rivals the “what if I throw a party and no one shows up” mentality.
Being the only guest at your own party or receiving zero gifts for Christmas (or your birthday) would make you feel terrible, right?
So, perhaps we give gifts because don’t want anyone to have to experience that feeling. So what if it makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside?
Returning to my original anecdote, nearly newborn CeCe certainly won’t be lacking in the gift department this year, and at a few weeks old, I don’t expect anything from her in return.
Did I feel elated that her mother loved the gift? You betcha. Did that play some role in giving the gift or at least giving it early? Probably, but I’m OK with that.
And, in the long run, if it gives me a leg up on being CeCe’s favorite “auntie,” well, I’m OK with that, too.