When it comes to present buying, I sometimes end up in a bit of a rut. I mean, I enjoy it, don’t get me wrong. And when whoever it is has given me a list, I’m happy. But you know how it is when you spend about 10, hour-long shopping trips picking up random items in shops and then moving on because they don’t feel like the perfect gift?
Whether you’re buying them or opening them, it’s easy to forget the significance of presents. When you’re opening them, your immediate emotional reaction depends on just how much potential for use and/or enjoyment they have. And sadly, there are always people who forget, or who wait until the last minute to buy something quick and cheap that is of no interest to the recipient. But it’s the thought that counts. Right?
Funnily enough, at the beginning of my Discipleship course, I wrote a talk that covered this particular sentiment. I’d been asked to explore the parable of the labourers, in which a man gets a bunch of people off the street to work for him, and pays them the same wage, despite some of them having worked for longer than others.
What I thought Jesus was saying, I explained at the time, was that being a part of God’s Kingdom isn’t a question of how long we’ve been following Him for, but whether we are genuine followers at all. In other words, sometimes the sentiment behind our actions matters more than the actions themselves.
Which brings me onto “the thought that counts.” Often it’s perfectly acceptable to just get someone a little something to show that you’re thinking of them. Using the above saying to get away with sub-minimal effort relative to what is appropriate, however, isn’t the idea at all. It’s the thought that someone wanted to put time and money into giving you something they thought would make you happy, that counts.
So when buying presents, you want to be that person. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to find the best possible things, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to slow down and instead remember why you are doing this. To show you love someone by giving them something they like? If the intention is heartfelt, and the friend a genuine one, they will feel it.
When someone buys me a present without me reciprocating, I feel kind of bad. When it’s vice versa, I feel bad if I’ve made them feel bad. If you get my drift. But I’ve had at least two people say to me that it doesn’t matter to them. And I think if everyone took that attitude, all that awkwardness wouldn’t be an issue. Because rather than coming to a mutual agreement about being on present terms or not – which I’m guilty of considering – we would all be able to appreciate the simple satisfaction of bringing each other joy.
Speaking of which, Bouncer, Tango, Suri and George all thought they could bring me joy by helping with the Christmas tree last week. I thought I could bring them joy by scattering cat treats in another room. The fact that I then closed the living room door is not important.