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Friday
Dec212012

Rooms 177-182: Reclaim the Art of Mindful Giving

Rooms 177-182: Reclaim the Art of Mindful Giving
More Magnets, Less Socks 

Last week I went to the hardware store. That was the first Christmas miracle. The second miracle came an hour later when I replaced the magnet on our kitchen cabinet. For the first time in six years, the door shut completely, without five slams and a mouthful of expletives. 

I slapped a post-it note for my wife on the cabinet. “Merry Christmas.” 

I wish you could have seen the look on her face. How do you say “I’d marry you all over again?” It was right there in her eyes. I mean there’s not a piece of jewelry on the planet that could have made her as happy as she was that day, or at least that’s what I told myself, as I wrapped up her oven mitts and put them under the tree.  

But, it’s the truth. Really. She would have preferred that magnet far more than anything else I could have bought her. And if you knew my wife, you’d know I’m not exaggerating. Of course, this speaks volumes about her character and how easy she is to please, which also explains why she married me.

And, yes, I know. It also speaks to how useless I am around the house. 

But, back to the cabinet. More than highlighting my many flaws, that little magnet gave me a glimpse into a new room, a room where the smallest gesture can have the most lasting impression. It is a room where we embrace a brand new way of giving. I bet my wife couldn’t remember one gift I gave her last year, but I’m certain she won’t forget that magnet, especially because it will probably fall off in a couple of weeks. 

But, really, how often do we give gifts, which, like empty calories, do nothing, say nothing, mean nothing? And, most importantly, add nothing to the recipient’s life. 

It is time to return our socks, our ties, our Starbuck’s gift cards and reclaim the integrity of gift giving. It’s time to give more magnets.

Rooms 177-182: Reclaim the Art of Mindful Giving
More Magnets, Less Socks

Before we dive in, I’d like to be clear that this is not a rant against materialism, or a call to minimalism. And that’s a good thing, seeing as how I’m the guy with every Apple product ever invented. Instead, this is a call to think and feel before we give. It is a reminder to ourselves on why we give in the first place. 

And I also want to be clear that this is not a response to poor economic conditions. It’s unfortunate that we often equate gift giving to how much we have in our wallets, which is why, in tough times, we say things like: it’s time to buckle down and tighten the purse strings. And we say it in an apologetic tone, like we were cutting our quality of life, sacrificing and making due, until that moment when we win our personal lotto and can merrily return to the mall. 

Well, bullshit and more bullshit. Nothing could be further from the truth. We don’t need to tighten up, we need to loosen up, and not our wallets, but our hearts. We need to remind ourselves why we give in the first place. 

And, one more thing. This isn’t about Christmas, or Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, nor is it about birthdays, Valentines Day, graduations or baby showers. It’s about any moment in which we give someone a gift as an expression of what they mean to us. 

Here are my 7 Keys to Reclaiming the Art of Mindful Giving:

1. Remind Yourself Why You’re Giving.
A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer.
Seneca

We all know that a gift isn’t the present we give, it’s the sentiment we want to send.  And, yet, how often do we forget this with our knee-jerk, mass-consciousness gift giving. And I hate to break it to you, but February 14th isn’t a reason to give. And a scarf isn’t really a gift, not unless there’s a clear and conscious reason behind it.  And the fact that someone gave you a gift isn’t a reason to give, either. It’s an obligation, which ranks right up there with guilt, all adding up to another empty calorie gift, which is void of sentiment and life. 

Mindful gift-giving is simple. Next time you want to buy someone a gift, silently ask yourself why you’re doing it. Is it because you appreciate what a wonderful babysitter you have, how kind a teacher’s been to your kid, or how much joy a friend has brought to your life? Make this the year you buy nothing that is not backed with gratitude, appreciation, friendship, or love. Know clearly why you’re buying a gift, not once in awhile, but all the time. And while your gift can still be a simple pair of socks, it will mean much more if you know in your heart why you’re giving it. 

I guarantee you...their toes will be warmer because of it.   

2. Give without any strings attached.
The less you expect the greater the gift.   

3. Give magic.
There are all kinds of wonderful gifts out there. Some of them you buy in a store, but others you have to search for. You’ll find them at a garage sale, a farmer’s market or even in your attic. It could be a polished stone, an unusual plant, a bold pair of pants, an exotic blend of coffee, a postcard with an inspiring quote, or even a purse that doubles as a telephone (which my wife owns). It’s all of those odd and interesting things that you stumble upon and say, “now there’s something that belongs to…” 

It’s more than a stone, a flower, or a plant you’re giving. It’s an energy that you know feels right in another person’s hand. It’s an inner knowingness that someone needs your exact gift. Personally, I have rocks, seashells, twigs, paintings, and all sorts of exotic knick knacks in my house. These are the gifts I will keep forever. Believe me, they’re magic. 

4. Recycle Your Stuff. 
Whoever said that something has to be brand new to be a good gift. That’s an “old room” that needs to be blown up today. Go ahead, close your eyes and blow up that tape in your mind. How many things do we have in our house that we just don’t use anymore? If you’re not going to use it or give it to charity, maybe it could be useful to someone you know. I have some great equipment in my office that I don’t use anymore. If I can’t be bothered putting it up on Ebay, then why not put it in someone’s hands who could use it. It’s time to get over the idea that something has to be brand new to be worthy of giving. Let our discards bring joy to someone else. 

5. Give Flowers.
I love flowers. Flowers are a gift that are immediately sentimental because they have no other agenda than to lighten up someone’s day. You can’t wear flowers, drink them, listen to them or slip your feet into them. All they do is sit there and brighten up a room, reminding someone that you care. What better gift is there than that? 

6. Surprise Someone.
Want to make an impact? Deliver a gift that someone didn’t see coming. In my house, it’s the magnet. In your house it might be taking off a day of work to take your family on an unexpected trip. It might mean making dinner for your wife, showing up at a friend’s work with a cup of coffee, or a well choreographed karaoke song. It could be buying donuts for co-workers. It could be a million tiny things. The key here is to do the unexpected. That’s where the surprise comes from. This year, let’s aim to surprise as many people as we can. Outside of magic, there is no better gift. 

Except one. 

7. Share Yourself.
“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Truth is, we’re all spending time looking for the perfect gift. And if we’re not busy searching for the perfect gift, than we’re anguishing and apologizing over the fact that we can’t afford to buy the perfect gift. Well, guess what? There is a perfect gift. 

It’s closer than you think. And it doesn’t cost a dime. It’s sharing yourself with others. And here you spent all that time looking for the right tie. I’m no psychologist, but it seems fairly obvious that all we really want in life is to be connected with each other.  

And with that aim, the best gift we can give is always ourself. Not with our wallets, but with our time, our wisdom, our energy, our joy, our laughter, our presence, our love. It’s the only thing that matters. It’s what makes great marriages, loving homes, supportive friendships, strong communities, and a better world. 

And it starts with each one of us. This year, let’s all pledge to give more flowers, surprise others often, share the stuff in our house, give away magic, and, most importantly, give of ourselves. 

It’s truly the greatest gift we have. 

I wish you all happy holidays, not just for one day, but everyday, all 365 days. May they be filled with love, joy and awareness. 

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