Thursday, December 24, 2015

Reflection on the nature of the value of a gift

People used to show how much they cared by the "time" they spent on those they love.

I am thinking back to the days when hand crafted gifts were precious for the love that went into the making.  

When I was a child I spent hours “creating” gifts for family.  This was when I learned all kinds of crafts from embroidery to knitting to drawing and leather craft.  Creating for those we loved was simply an extension of spending time with those we loved. 

For example, time spent writing letters when loved ones lived far away.  Long distance phone calls were expensive so the “time spent” on a call was cherished not only because of the cost but also because of the time taken. Phone calls were an “event” planned and looked forward to.  But letters were often sent weekly between loved ones separated by distance.

Time spent keeping relationships alive was something that people practiced.  When I look back at my childhood it is the gift of “time spent” on others that stands out as the most loving and generous gift we exchanged.  

And then we were overtaken by the ever greater use of consumer goods.  We went from hand crafted cards with lovingly hand written messages to mass produced cards with a manufactured sentiment preprinted.  Now all that needed doing was scrawling a signature and done!

We went from hand crafted gifts to store bought gifts, less time spent in the act of giving, and over time less thought placed in the nature of the gift shared because the “advertisers” and “wish lists” already told us what was desired. 

We went from lovingly wrapped presents with carefully placed bows and decorations, to just plop it into a premade bag with some tissue paper, good enough!

I remember spending hours and hours wrapping gifts, making each one unique and special.  Then I learned that the wrapping was not cherished, it was torn off in great hurry to see it what was on the inside was indeed something from the "wish list".   And if it wasn’t the look of disappointment was so profound it was like a stab to the heart, a rejection of the time spent trying to find something meaningful and purposeful. 

In some cases the “wish demands” have become so extensive and expensive that now it is easier to just put some cash in a premade cash giving card so that “they” can buy the gift of their choice after the holidays.

What we have gained in being able to “buy” so many of the things we used to make is more free time to do something else that does not involve the giftee.  What we have lost is the emotional and spiritual connectedness between gift giver and gift receiver. 

Consumerism has taken away an element of connection between people.  Consumerism has made gift giving about giving a desired item over the gift of time.

Maybe there is a connection between this change in our culture and the way people are treated also like expendable things.  When people don’t meet the criterion to be on the “wish list” they are disposable.  Only the perfect and the beautiful (like assembly line products, every item exactly precisely as perfect as the last) are welcome.  The imperfect, the frail, the sickly, the old, the needy, the redundant are all swept into the waste bin just as the rejects of the assembly line are tossed in the trash.

So much has changed in the years since I was a child.  I face my life as it is now and realize, I may have a greater opportunity to buy more things, but there are many priceless riches that have been lost over the course of the years.  The things that I value are not in general valued anymore. 

In seeking cheaper factory made goods we have lost touch with the gift of time.  A handmade scarf is a gift of time shared.  Few people even consider “buying” a handmade scarf because of the cost, even though the knitter earns only pennies for their labour.  A cheaper machine made scarf devalues the labour of love, it separates us from the value of crafting skills, and it reduces a labour of love to a commodity. 

It dehumanizes us.  It creates distance between the giver and the giftee.  And the giver becomes expendable, because it is so much easier, faster, more convenient to buy a commodity of our own choosing, via the “want list”. Anyone will do as long as the end result is that the receiver gets what they “want”.  Who the gift giver is, becomes irrelevant and therefore disposable and expendable, for someone else can simply be found to fulfill the “want list”.

As I sit here reflecting on the changes that have happened in my own lifetime, and falling into the “expendable” category myself, I marvel at how changing perceptions of what has value and what does not, has changed our lives. The change is not insignificant. 

I will continue to create crafts and share them with my friends.  I will continue to give gifts of my time, my labour of love.  I find connection in the giving.  I hope that those of my friends who receive one of my random gifts of “time shared” find human connection in the receiving as much as I do.  Receiving a gift of loving time shared, continues to be one of my favorite gifts.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 - 12 - 24 

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a lovely reminder of a time long past.