It's the thought that counts.
As we near the holiday season, this old adage of gift giving keeps popping into my head. It's a phrase used to make the giver and/or receiver of an ill-selected gift feel better about giving or receiving a lame gift. The phrase usually implies that it is not important whether the gift was selected with the wants and needs of the recipient in mind, but rather that the importance lies in the fact that the gift was given at all.
I don't know about you, but I would think it more thoughtful if I received a bag of dirt rather than the burden of an object that I neither find useful nor beautiful.
To the dismay of many people, I tell you that thought does count in gift giving but not just because any old gift was given. If it is just giving the gift that counts, you could wrap up a dead cat for your grandmother instead of going to Wal-Mart and buying her a pair of Big Bird bedroom slippers (this is not meant to offend those grandmothers who desperately desire such a gift but have never received it from their thoughtless grandchildren).
Aunt Elsie in Miami, Florida, by the way, does not think the thought that went into giving her the powder blue wool socks with white snowflakes and mittens to match counts. She would rather have the dead cat!
And what about your hard-earned money you spend on an "It's the thought that counts" gift? Do you know what happens to those gifts? One of two things happens. They are re-gifted, like that nine-year-old fruit cake that turns up under the Christmas Tree every year, or they end up in next spring's yard sale that was advertised in the classifieds as having a "plethora of unusual and unique items of ephemera" (i.e., a lot of junk given to me by people who put very little thought into gift giving so I am forced to spend a Saturday of my life hocking it!).
This year, don't go to Wal-Mart at 5 p.m, on Christmas Eve and rake everything off of the clearance shelf into your cart and go home to rapidly wrap and put from you to whomever on random gift items. You might end up giving Uncle Bob, who lost both of his legs in a plowing incident, a pair of in-line skates. No, the pink sparkle laces won't make the gift any more thoughtful. And NO, he doesn't mean it when he says "Well, it's the thought that counts."
Just by keeping in mind and practicing a few simple rules of gift giving, you can make those on your list happy, and you can receive actual words of gratitude:
1) Start early, at least by Dec. 23.
2) Make a list of everyone to whom you will give a gift. Don't leave off Byron, your third cousin eight times removed just because he roots for the University of Tennessee. Everyone has their shortcomings.
3) Keep in mind the age, gender, interests, etc. of every person on your list and generate a few reasonable gift ideas for each person. Remember, a kush ball, no matter what shape, is not what all three-year-olds necessarily want.
4) If you're still at a loss, call the people on your list and ask them what they would like. If anyone requests a dead cat, Lee Street is a great place to find one.
5) Try to remember what you gave people in past years. The newlywed couple in your family, who has now been married for seven years, completed their full set of crock pots last Christmas.
6) Take your list with you when you shop. This will help you to not impulsively revert back to the "It's the thought that counts" gift giving mentality.