The Perfect Gift

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

One of the questions we often get asked is about the appropriateness of gift giving to agents, editors and the publishing team. I always say it is up to the individual. If you love giving gifts and want to use it as a way to say thanks I can attest that it is always appreciated. But if gift-giving is a chore and leaves you feeling uncertain, then it is not for you. I can’t think of any professional who expects gifts. I have received some unforgettable gifts from clients, like the four pairs of exquisitely knitted wool socks I received from Camy Tang over four consecutive years or the gorgeous appliquéd, quilted wall hanging I just opened today from DeAnna Julie Dodson. (Photo right.) Gifts from the heart.

Many years ago I wrote a looong article that appeared in several magazines about what constitutes the perfect gift. (You can tell how long ago by the fact that I had children at home doing dishes!) I thought I would excerpt some parts of it here since we are one week from Christmas and some of you are trying to finish up Christmas shopping. Writing related? Not exactly, but hopefully it’s helpful.

So what makes a perfect gift?

The intent behind the gift is paramount.  The apostle Paul knew that the secret of giving lies in the heart. He said, “Every man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV)  If your gift reflects a duty or carries the expectation of reciprocity, it can’t possibly convey cheerfulness.

A gift reflects the giver as well as the person receiving the gift.  The perfect gift celebrates something shared.  My friend, John, shares my love of gardening.  He raises hybrid daylilies as a hobby.  A cardboard box of bareroot daylilies shipped all the way from his Michigan perennial beds to my California garden, was an unforgettable gift.  I unwrapped the plastic and damp newspaper surrounding the roots and tucked them into the soil near my window.  Every summer when they bloom, I think of John.

A gift need not be overly expensive.  An overdone gift is awkward for the recipient, often causing embarrassment. Simplicity is always tasteful. Jacob described the perfect gift in Genesis 43:11.  What could a nomadic shepherd give to a sophisticated Egyptian ruler?  Jacob chose pristine fruits and nuts, spices and honey—delicacies of their land.  Simple and homegrown, but just as appropriate then as they are now.

A good gift affirms.  Our youngest daughter is an exceptional artist.  We provided her with a drafting table for her room, instead of the traditional desks we gave to the older two.  A desk would have worked just as well, but the drafting table says that we recognize her talent and stresses her individuality.

The perfect gift considers the recipient’s circumstances.  Luther Englund, a hospital chaplain, and his wife, Elvira, bake small loaves of bread and use collected baby food jars to can homemade pomegranate jelly.  Every year at Christmas he takes a jar of jelly and loaf of  freshly baked bread to each man in prison nearby. Chaplain Englund understands that a taste of home helps ease the loneliness of the holiday.   The gift may be small, but the act of concern is priceless.

Don’t overlook a gift of your time.  Our daughter’s job is to do the dinner dishes each evening.  Her brother’s most recent Christmas gift to her was a certificate for two of her dish washing chores.  Because she knows how much he hates this task, she values his gift.  An afternoon out for a young mother or a morning ride through the countryside for an elderly relative, has value that goes beyond material gifts.

Consider a living gift.  When two friends first came to see our house they each brought a tiny redwood tree as a gift.  We planted those evergreens and named them after the givers.  Those have been joined by other redwoods on our ranch, but it’s fun to point out that the tallest two are Betty and Mary.  As the years go by, we enjoy a growing reminder of friendship.

A gift of memory can be a treasure of lasting worth.  My mother created a book of remembrances, Bits ‘N’ Pieces, for each person in our extended family.  She compiled genealogical charts, family lore, photographs and stories. It took her more than a year to complete, but we will savor this gift for a lifetime.

If you want to give the perfect gift, offer a gift that grows out of relationship.  It takes listening and planning.  Sometimes it requires a commitment of service or of time, but after the gift wrap and ribbons have been cleared away, it is the gifts of the heart that remain.

How about you? Any gift giving tips?