I was in a bookstore today and wanted to take advantage of a special offer. If you bought three books (or gift items), you would get a fourth book free. For me, being in a bookstore with extra motivation to buy is a near perfect situation. And, as it's Christmas shopping time, I can buy books for lots of people. I love buying books.
Quickly I had one book in my hands and before long, I had three. Then came the part where I had to find one more thing. There may be thousands of items I want in that store but I find it difficult when there's pressure to find something.
At this point, with it being the Christmas season and with my shopping not nearly done, I entered a bad shopping state. I had a few names floating around in my head and wanted to find anything that would let me check one of them off my list. Rather than thinking about each person and coming up with ideas for what they would like, I was looking at merchandise and trying to determine if someone might want it. To me, this seems a sad way to shop for gifts but an approach it's easy to take when there are many presents to buy.
As I looked in the gift section, I saw individual letters of the alphabet. Each was about 25-30 cm square (or round, or both, depending on the letter). I have nothing against such letters. They're a way for kids and adults too (it worked for Mary Richards on the Mary Tyler Moore show), to lay claim to their part of the world. I have no reason, however, to buy one for any of the people on my Christmas list. It seemed all I would be saying by buying one of those letters was "Look, I can identify the first letter of your name." I'd like to say a little more.
Buying one letter for someone on my list (perhaps someone with an especially interesting first initial - do we have any Xavier's, is there a Zelda in the family?) would have earned me my free item and yesterday's shopping dilemma would have been solved. I could have taken it further though and, assuming that I could find the letter for each person on my shopping list (and assuming too that I stuck to only 1 letter each and didn't try to buy enough to compose oversize messages), I could have finished my shopping in that store. Everyone would know the joy of receiving a big letter; no one would be left out.
Shopping can be that easy and that means gift-giving can be that pointless. In my opinion, when we get to the point of a large purchase of identical generic gifts for all, we really shouldn't bother. Thinking about each person, their likes, their passions, their needs, we can give them something that we think will hold special meaning for them. It takes some thought, some feeling and getting it all done can be a challenge. I would rather expend that energy though and try to do a good job.
I say all this now when there is still some time to get Christmas shopping done. If I am not finished by December 23rd, I may rush out to buy a few decorative letters and perhaps not even match them up to anyone's initials. All I'll really be saying then is "Look - I remembered that you exist and here's a letter - you can start to spell a word!" And I'd be pretty pleased with myself for this especially pointless purchase until they handed me a gift of a lovely homemade scarf in my favourite colours constructed in fibers I'm known to adore.
I will stay away from decorative letter and other non-specific purchases. I did find a fourth item in the bookstore yesterday and I think I bought some presents that people will like. I won't be constructing any homemade projects for people but I will try to give purchases some thought. And if I receive any big J's to hang on my wall, I will be grateful to know that someone cared enough to find the right letter. It just won't be the same if I get a big X.