As we draw near to Christmas there is an increasing emphasis on gift giving, in some people's eyes the bigger and more expensive the better, in others it's the thought that has gone into it that is more important. Either way there are gifts flying back and forth between friends and families at this time of year!
Something that I have been asked many times from friends since we had munchkins is 'Are we just giving to the children?' meaning 'Are we exchanging for each member of the family or will presents for the kids suffice?' ... I have even heard more and more often 'Are we doing gifts this year?', translate that as 'If you can't be bothered than neither can I, but if we're both OK with that, it doesn't matter'!
Do we give gifts only because we're expecting something back in return? Is it because we feel uncomfortable receiving something if we can't also give in exchange? Is it a cultural thing? Do we have to give and receive something of equal value for it to be an acceptable present?
Having moved around a lot over the last few years, getting to know new people in different locations and cultures, I recall a few conversations I've had, where someone was giving me information about another family including this choice nugget ... 'we've had them round for a dinner a couple of times but they never invited us back, so we've given up now'. More recently someone said to me 'I think it's probably our turn to have you round, isn't it?'.
These conversations show an expectation that if we make the effort to have someone to our house, they should also invite us ... and then if they don't invite us in return, there is a limit to how many times we are willing to show this unreciprocated hospitality! Again, maybe this is a cultural thing. Is it only acceptable to pursue a friendship if we receive as much as we give?
As a family we like to give people gifts, we like to treat people, we like to make them feel special. We don't always get it right (nobody's perfect!) and there are times that we are unable to do everything we want to for various reasons but one thing we don't expect is that we have to be matched or reciprocated ... we do it for one reason and one reason only ... because we enjoy it and the other people are always worth it!
Gifts come in many forms, presents, meals, childcare, time, listening, we're always on the lookout for what, where and who we can 'treat' but usually do it so far under most people's radars that not many of those around us have the opportunity to notice what we're up to. We hope we're passing this onto our girls, so that they grow up with open eyes to look out for others in this way too!
Giving is an integral part of Christmas. The ultimate Christmas gift arrived in the form of a baby ... in the most extravagant present, all those years ago! It was one of those gifts given with no expectations whatsoever, just the hope that we would accept it. Sometimes it really is that simple!