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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Re-Gifting At Christmas

I once read a Dear Abby letter in which a reader lamented, “How do I get a person to stop re-gifting me? Often it's her used clothes, used decor and knickknacks that she no longer wants. This person can afford nice things, which is why she thinks I would like her old stuff. I find it insulting when I get it in the form of a gift. It is always wrapped beautifully and presented as though I should be so grateful.  How do I get her to stop?”  Secondhand Rose

Abby's response was, "Dear Rose: If I selected a gift for someone and she didn’t keep it--or exchanged it--I would give it one more try. If it happened again, from then on I would send a lovely card to mark the occasion, or a bouquet or plant. And if I was really ticked off, I would re-gift her gift back to her." 

That’s one approach, but I'd like to offer a different take on re-gifting. I’ve come to believe that everything we give, at Christmas or at any other time, is some form of recycled gift.

For a start, none of us givers has earned the priceless gift of life itself. And the privilege of being born to parents who loved us and took care of us for free, and of being born in a land of abundance instead of in some poverty-ridden country, were also things we could have never negotiated, bought or paid for. In addition, many of us received a free public school education, one paid for by others' involuntary gifts in the form of taxes.

Later some of us got to enroll in higher institutions of learning we could have never been able to create or afford to attend, all through the generous gifts of hundreds of unnamed donors. Add to that our good health, our mostly sound minds, and whatever talents or gifts we've inherited from our ancestors--all helped us get whatever earning opportunities we’ve had, and are examples of amazing, unmerited grace.

Way back when I was six, my parents were able to buy a farm with the help of a generous uncle who helped with the financing. Here we grew and produced food for a living, but we could have never done that without the unearned blessings of God’s soil, sunshine and everything else it takes to make a farm productive. In return for whatever we invested in money and labor for our harvests, we usually got sufficient payment to cover our costs, with some extra in the form of a gift known as profit. In the same way, whenever any of us buys or sells anything, this kind of gift-swapping takes place, grace for grace, blessing for blessing.

That’s how I’ve come to believe that everything we have in life is first a gift. You and I just get to exchange. So let's pass good things around and around, re-gifting with abandonment.
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