“Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts.
The only true gift is a portion of yourself.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I loved this quote the first time I read it. In so few words, Emerson captures an idea and a concept that rings true. Gifts aren’t the things we buy, but what we give of ourselves.
Sometimes it feels as if I live in a society that is based on external appearance – on material items… on the material value of things. How often do we focus on the time taken to build an item or the craftsmanship? How often do we say “no” to an expensive dinner or piece of jewelry, preferring a shared experience or time together… over a poem or story written just for us?
I wonder if we have become a society that values something bought more than something made?
Or have we started focusing more on the token itself over the thought behind it?
Gifts are wonderful. They often tell another that we love them, were thinking of them, or that we recognize and appreciate what they bring to our lives.
They are also means of apologizing, winning approval, and buying favor – it just depends on the way that they are given and received. I know plenty of men who feel required to buy expensive gifts for their wives for holidays – or who will use money to win approval or ask for forgiveness… And I know plenty of women who expect both of these things to happen. The amount of money spent on them directly reflects how much they are loved.
How did we get from treasuring corn cob dolls with hand stitched clothing made from scraps or bouquets of wild flowers picked along the side of the road, or long walks and picnics to high priced Champaign, high priced jewelry, and the idea that the way we feel about another is reflected by the money we are willing to spend?
I used to enjoy dining with a dear friend at a wonderful restaurant in Fairfax. I will be honest in that the place is not fast food or drive through. It is classical Italian in that the meals were simple, delicious, and long. For some, the price of the meal would have meant something – and maybe it did to him. For me, the best part of the meal was the time shared. I received some wonderful things on my birthday earlier this month – but that which I will remember and treasure is the time I spent with my daughter and friends. They gave of themselves – their time and their company is something that money just can’t buy.
Money is a wonderful thing – and we all know that it can make life easier in some ways. Money can also buy some gorgeous gifts. But, how often do we use money to buy gifts that are meant to replace what we can’t give… ourselves?
Perhaps it is less expensive and simply easier to buy platinum and gold than it is to take the time and open ourselves to another? To take the risk of giving something so amazingly valuable as… ourselves!