In July, my wife and I are attending a wedding for a couple that we’re very close to. As that date approaches, the couple is pretty heavily involved in planning things – and they’re really beginning to realize how many little things there are to take care of.
Meanwhile, there’s another couple that are close friends of ours who recently had a baby. Their wedding shower is set to happen a couple months after the birth of their child. I can tell by their Twitter feeds that both of them are running low on sleep.
In both of these cases, the people in question don’t need physical things. Instead, they’re in a situation where they’re under some significant pressure and the greatest gift you can give them is to relieve that pressure.
This is often true of many people in your life. Almost every adult has some sort of pressure bearing down on them – spiritual, emotional, physical, temporal, or something else – and relief from that pressure is the greatest gift you can give to them.
Over the last few years, my wife and I have slowly been migrating towards this direction for our gift-giving. Rather than simply passing an item to someone, particularly the people we care the most about, we ask ourselves, “What can we do to make their lives better?”
Often, such a gift doesn’t have much of a financial cost. The cost is usually in the form of time and/or energy.
More importantly, such gifts usually end up meaning a lot more to the recipient than just another tchotchke.
The best way to demonstrate what we’re talking about is to use the examples above.
For the soon-to-be-married couple, we asked them how their wedding planning was going. They were worried about several issues, but one that stood out to us was the idea of having a small “gift bag” for each attendee. They wanted to give each attendee a memento of their day, something unique that would really stand out. We offered to handle this for them by making individually wrapped homemade soaps for each gift that were in line with the theme of the wedding. All they’d have to do is give us a bit of suggestion for what they’d want in the soap – scents, oil types, and so on – and we would make the soap, wrap it up, and distribute it for them. It’s a problem directly off their shoulders.
As for the couple with the new baby, the biggest thing they need is time for rest and for intimacy with each other. We can solve that by simply giving them a few gift certificates for evenings of babysitting.
So often, gift-giving occasions are met with consternation and cost. They often mean an outpouring of money onto some object that you’re not even sure that the recipient will value – or else you’re just grabbing an item off of a wishlist, which is just a step or two away from just thoughtlessly handing them cash.
Instead, simply step back and ask yourself what the recipient actually needs in life. What, in their life, is causing pressure or is creating a vacuum? What do they have too much of – or too little of?
If you have an older relative or friend, the thing they’d most value from you is likely companionship. Why not promise to spend a few Saturday afternoons with your grandma or grandpa or mom or dad playing cards with them or watching a movie with them?
Parents? They almost always value trusted babysitting. Teenagers will usually value time you spend taking them to do something fun. Younger children love trips to the park (and their parents often value it, too). Many single people greatly value expertise in fixing things, so if you’ve got some skills to share, that’s a great opportunity. Weddings? Take care of a detail for them.
The list goes on and on.
Remember, if you want to give something that the recipient will actually value without spending money on something you’re not sure they’d value, just look at their situation and ask yourself what they most need in their life. Do they need companionship? Rest? Experiences? Something taken off of a long to-do list?
Whatever it is, if you can provide that, you’ve given them a gift that matters without spending unnecessary cash. That’s something everyone can appreciate.