With the holidays just around the corner and Christmas trees showing up in stores before Halloween I am tempted to stay in bed with the covers pulled over my head until the chaos subsides. But, according to many psychological studies and expert wisdom, I’d be missing out on the many benefits I’d get from participating in gift giving.
Most of us have experienced the high that can come from looking for, finding and presenting the perfect gift for a beloved family member or friend. And research has given a scientific validity to that high. In a New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope, A Gift That Gives Right Back: The Giving Itself, she tells us that it’s the giver, rather than the recipient, who reaps the greater psychological benefits.
An important part of shopping for someone else is thinking about that person and what he/she needs or would like. Grabbing something off a shelf and rushing to the cashier at the last moment probably won’t produce much of a positive effect. It’s the “thinking about” before-hand that strengthens the connection between giver and receiver and results in good feelings for both. Maya Angelou wrote that “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully everyone is blessed.”
Perhaps it is O. Henry’s poignant short story, The Gift of the Magi, that expresses the spirit of giving most eloquently. I had planned to outline the story here, but if you haven’t read it, it would be unkind of me to clue you in on the ending. It’s the ending that contains the message. Here’s a link to the story.