Right on schedule, at the end of July, the Nebraska Lottery sent my early birthday present. It’s a scratch-off ticket for a “free” chance to possibly win a jackpot. In the past, the only prize I’ve ever received is another “free” chance to win. I’ll bring the “gift” with me when it’s time to buy fuel for the ol’ Camry.
This year, I received another corporate birthday “gift”. It’s a gift card entitling me to a 21-piece set of impact driver bits from Menard’s big box hardware store. I do not own an impact driver, nor do I really need one. At least the birthday card is cheerful–I thank them for that.
These gifts were given with the hope that I would spend money on something from the giver. I have to go out of my way to claim the “gifts”. I have a few months to use the scratch ticket at a convenience store. Menard’s is giving me until March 31st of next year to claim my impact driver bits. I probably won’t redeem the card for the bits because I already have plenty of spare bits that I use in my power drill. Also, I don’t know anyone who owns an impact driving tool who could use some spare bits.
I’m grateful for gifts that come from the heart; however marketing ploys disguised as birthday gifts are not really gifts. In these two instances, I have been inconvenienced. Inducements to engage in purchase transactions are manipulative ploys from marketing departments. At best, I feel twinges of obligation. At worst I feel cynical about the companies’ motives.
On the other hand, I received some authentic, heartfelt cards from friends. Some of them are humorous; some of them are sentimental; they’re all keepers. They were willingly sent by friends who made the extra effort to wish me well without expecting payment or inducement to purchase something from them. There’s a lot to be said about gifts like these.
The most meaningful gifts are not the stuff that can be bought in a store or on line. The best gifts are love and affection. Being present when someone needs you. Sure, we’ve heard this many times, but it’s the honest truth.
Interestingly, one of my favorite pithy sayings comes from a politician. The late, former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey said, “The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.” One of the best gifts anyone can give is time. When you give your time, you’re giving something that cannot be replenished.
We often think about gifts during our birthday months or around the holidays. In my opinion, gifts are something about which to ponder, not lightly dismiss. As we carry on with the rest of today or tonight, it’s good to remember a wise old saying from the masters: “Each day is a gift. Receive it with eagerness. Share it with joy.”