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Another Day in the Country

Gifts from the heart

© Another Day in the Country

It was in the news. The Christmas tree theme at the White House this year is “Gifts from the Heart.” Nice idea. Nothing worse than receiving perfunctory gifts — what I called “have-to” gifts, which are expected. 

“Have-to” gifts are the kind of gift someone receives from the bottom of the gift drawer — that spot where you put things you receive but don’t use.

By contrast, the heartfelt gift is one where you can tell immediately that the giver knew something about you — that you like chickens, for instance.

So you can guess that I have received couch pillows with chickens on them and salt shakers shaped like eggs. These are gifts that bring a smile to my face when I use them.

That’s why gifts from the heart are so important. Every time we see the gift or use the gift, the gift giver comes to mind, and it warms the heart.

I think about these things while I’m figuring out what to get my family for Christmas. What do they need? What would they want? It pleases me to give them gifts they enjoy. What will it be this year? 

The problem is, I’m not around them often enough to get many clues as to what they like or might need.

Gifts are so much fun to choose and give away. I savor the moments when I’m wandering through a store saying, “What if? Would Jana like this? Would Jess ever use this?”

I couldn’t resist getting my grandson another weird Christmas sweater this year. By now, he has a collection. Lucky for me, he’s crazy enough to wear them. Some people aren’t.

“I don’t need more stuff,” Jess announces. “Forget about gifts!”

And yet I know her! I know how she relishes giving gifts, too. 

Sometimes, the receiving of gifts is trickier, especially as we gather years.

What do I really need? The answer is, not all that much. One can house only so many knickknacks and potholders, kitchen towels with slogans on them, and scented soaps for the bathroom.

What do we do with these things we’ll never use? Regift them? Take them to Goodwill? Sell them at a garage sale?

I say, “Buck up and do whatever you have to do, but don’t stop receiving!”

It’s an important muscle to exercise. Furthermore, you never know when some unusual gift you receive might spark a new understanding, maybe even a new skill.

A couple of years back, Anne, who is in my extended family, gave me a Korean knife. She had no way of knowing that I have a huge set of knives and regularly use only one of them. 

“Now, you must use it immediately,” she cautioned, “or it will bring bad luck to the giver.”

She laughed, but I thought I’d better remember to use this new, strange tool and not leave it languishing in a drawer.

That knife — a rather big, squared-off, chopping, slicing, cutting tool — has become a favorite when I’m making salad.

It’s very different from the serrated Cutco paring knives that have been my go-to tool in the kitchen for years and years. Not only do I think of Anne every time I use the knife, I’ve learned a new skill while slicing and dicing.

My friend Michaela gave me a little shaker containing four different herb mixtures that you can season a salad with or put in olive oil as a dipping sauce for French bread.

That bottle of spices will probably last a lifetime at the rate I use them, but every time I open the lid and smell the fragrance, I give thanks for her inclusion in my life.

She is the real gift, introducing me to new things all the time.

Kristina gave me a digital tablet a few years back. I’d never had one and didn’t know how to use it, but it opened up a whole new world for me.

She helped me set it up, showed me how to use it and now, I use it every single day. I eat breakfast with my tablet. Sometimes it’s my entertainment. Sometimes it’s my teacher. It’s a window on the world, company in a quiet house.

Have fun buying presents for Christmas this year, my friends. Who knows what new experience, what memories you’ll be creating for years to come. And it all began when you said to yourself, what would I like to give them on another day in the country.

Last modified Dec. 15, 2021

 

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