When most people think of Christmas Shopping, the word “Scrum” comes to mind. The malls become choked with sweaty bodies all dashing in every direction to reach store shelves picked clean of taste or value. And how the heck are you supposed to buy for adult loved ones? Let’s face it, if they want something they usually have a job that gives them money to buy said thing whenever they want it. You can try to mitigate that using lists, but the people writing them feel greedy and the people reading them feel daunted when their shopping budget just got spontaneously high-balled. When the inevitable Visa hangover comes in the mail you think to yourself, Why did I just do this? Why do any of us do this? Are we so under the spell of corporations and money-making enterprises of all sorts that we prostrate ourselves, year in, year out, on the altar of mass consumption? Boy, those corporations sure have us licked. I once saw a corporation eat a live puppy once. True story.
Or so I used to think. My wife, Sara, loves giving gifts and shopping for gifts. However, she laments that her shopping stamina is not up to par with her mother, who can go 8 hours without so much as an Orange Julius break. To Sara, when you give a gift, you are not just placing filthy lucre at the foot of a torch-lit shrine to Sam Walton. A gift is a symbol of how well you know a person. It is, in effect, your relationship in effigy. Finding the perfect gift is kind of like a game. You try to pick out the person’s hopes and desires from observations you’ve made of them over the past year. The search isn’t always fruitful. Sara will still ask her quarry if nothing comes up. But if you’ve got that kind of information about your loved ones, be it a snippet of conversation, or a glance of a magazine open on a coffee table, wouldn’t you act on it? Even if navigating the retail landscape is confusing, you get a little peek into their world, their experience. That, my friends, is a gift that all the realities of modern manufacture and consumerism cannot cheapen.