Free Gift ?
Off The Wall - Apr. 23, 2009

I bet you, as a reader of this column, have received a piece of mail that has written on the outside of the envelope, “Free Gift Inside.” That humors me. Isn’t a gift usually free anyway? Can you imagine ever getting such a letter from a company that would use the same words only to add, “Now Only $20!” Even though it would be a great attention getter, I see it as a “no go-er.”

I don’t believe I have to explain what a gift really is, but will do so anyway. To my understanding, it is something one freely gives to another for any number of reasons. It can be tangible or intangible, such as a toaster, or that of hope. Examples are wedding gifts, house-warming presents, or things to show gratitude when invited to dinners. God-given talents, such as being a masterful painter or pianist, are spiritual gifts.

Back on January 13, 2009, I circulated my first survey of this year among email recipients and asked simply to fill in a multiple choice questionnaire concerning the subject at hand – “I give gifts because… (A) I want to get something in return, (B) I want to show my love for another, (C) I am thankful for what he or she did for me, (D) It’s a fun thing to do, (E) It’s my of showing friendship to another, and (F) Other. I did not stipulate to only choose one. I let the party select any number of categories he wished to pick. If one chose “F”, I asked
that he “Please explain in as much detail as necessary,” the reason he chose “Other.”

Two people responded with answers I didn’t expect. The first chap told me I really made him think, but did convey a message. The second person thought the questioning was too complex and decided not to answer it at all.

The choice which received the most votes was “B,” “I want to show love for another.”

But the votes also revealed that there are almost just as many people out there who will give gifts to show thankfulness as there are to extend love to another.

One lady told me, “More often than other, I see something that reminds me of the person and I just get it for them. Sometimes I just like to fill a need.” A priest explained, “Giving gifts is an act of showing kindness for others.” Another commented, “I think the three answers I checked all relate to different people in different situations whom you send gifts to.” Two told me they would rather give than receive. A western resident related, “Giving makes me feel good inside and I hope it shows the receiver that I love them.” Another family man told me he gave his church organist flowers for Christmas as a way of showing her his appreciation. One fellow who checked “other,” told me, “Because God tells me it is the right thing to do.”

I know my surveys are never complete without hearing from this local resident. “I love making people smile. When you have had as much love and blessing as I have had in my life, it feels good to make someone also feel blessed, appreciated, valued or loved. To me, the best is to give someone something they are not expecting. When I have received gifts that I did not expect, every time I look at that item, I think of that person or moment,” she said.

No long ago, I opened two envelopes addressed to me which had no return address, and found enclosed within their confines, a two and one dollar bill respectively. Someone got a great deal of pleasure out of this gesture. I can only assume one of my readers sent me this thoughtful gift. If this is true, “Thanks!!! I’ll think of you whenever I look at it, whoever you are. By the way, keep ‘em coming. I like gestures like this!!!

I give gifts for two primary reasons, one of which is to show my love to my family. All others is to extend my gratitude and thankfulness for the way I was treated during the past twelve months. In so doing, it becomes very much a fun thing to do. I am so thankful to have good friends and people who have helped me over the years. I enjoy giving a little back of so much others gave to me.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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