Of the many Bibles I possess, one pocket-sized New Testament says, on the flyleaf, “from Grandpa Howard, Christmas 1955.”
As a toddler, I can’t imagine a New Testament was my first choice for a gift!
The art of gift-giving can be complicated.
The basic criteria for a good gift is that it shows an understanding of the person, his/her tastes, goals, habits and sources of delight.
My own father was difficult. Not that he hid his passions and interests. Cars and tools pretty much exhausted the list. The problem was that any device that met his standards surpassed my budget.
Apparently, I have inherited the same gene.
The bottom rung criteria for gift-giving involves finding something that, if not serving to spark wonder, at least does not reveal a complete lack of personal awareness. To my credit, I never bought my father a tie or socks. He had one tie he wore to church every Sunday. Who needs more? All his socks slid into steel-toed work boots and were bought by the bundle.
I covet a sense of surprise to accompany gifts for special people. The gift does not have to be extravagant, costly or carry an elite brand name but does need to point to a depth in the relationship and a desire for the recipient’s life to contain moments of delight and a sense that they are special.
I sometimes wonder if I bought a lottery ticket and if I won the big one, would the ability to give special gifts be compromised. If my wife and I had the money to buy whatever we wanted, at any time, for ourselves, the children or grandchildren how would our ability to give or receive gifts be impacted?
Would the absence of any significant personal cost dull the impact of the gift?
The best gifts combine the basic criteria with expressions of hope for the one receiving the gift.
“I think you are beautiful. I hope this gift helps you to see and to feel this truth that is so obvious to me.”
“I know that you are interested in history. I hope this gift encourages that passion.”
“I know you love your bath, so I hope this collection of amazing salts and spices enhances that enjoyment.”
The gift of the New Testament from my grandfather falls into this category. He wanted me to grow into a good man, nurtured in and a follower of the Christian Way. For him, an intimate knowledge of the Christian Scriptures provided an indispensable navigational tool to the good life.
In retrospect, that New Testament proved to be a good gift, a gift to live into and out of.
What gift might we give that would not only give the recipient what they want but help them become the person they would like to be?