Counter returns with appreciation

Surprise, surprise. Christmas cakes and socks are the least appreciated gifts Canadians receive. They get returned more than any other gifts after Christmas. Now… wait a minute! What do you mean, “returned?” You mean to say, people actually give back the things I give them? You mean to say that, if someone doesn’t appreciate my gift – or yours – that individual may callously return to the place where I purchased it (and where I probably sweated blood to get my credit card swiped only seconds before the closing bell on Christmas Eve), and get something else?

Whatever happened to “It’s not the gift that counts; it’s the thought that goes into it?” The credit company that informed me about the masses of returned Christmas cakes, tube socks and other underappreciated expressions of love also noted that – here’s another big surprise, coming from a money-processing plant – people prefer to receive “gift cards.”

That is supposedly based on the assumption – a wildly mistaken assumption, I would suggest – that nobody ever stands in line at the “Returns” counter to bring back a gift card. Perhaps a large percentage of tube sock recipients turn them in to get something else instead.

But every gift card is traded in for something else… except for those that are put aside and forgotten or otherwise end up never being cashed in (which turns out to be a fortuitous bonus for the store or shop that has its money and need never deliver the goods).

Since virtually all recipients trade in their gift cards for something else, it remains as my mommy taught me when I was just a wee lad: straight money is never really appreciated as a gift; you have to give something that is an expression of yourself for it to be really and truly appreciated.

The trouble is, most of us don’t really think about what we give. When we pick out Christmas gifts, we rarely ever put a serious effort into trying to express ourselves to the ones we love (or the ones we feel we have to buy something for so they don’t cut us out of the will).

As Donna so succinctly put it while we sat watching a movie that made an occasional appearance between its enabling advertisements: “We sure do buy a lot of garbage for people who don’t need any.”

Here’s an idea for gifts that give twice – and absolutely everyone, even that rich, crotchety, old uncle, can enjoy them. Instead of buying each of your 43 cousins each a pair of $5 socks, and all of your dozen and a half aunts and uncles each a Christmas cake, put the money all together in one of those socks and use it to buy something for someone who really needs it.

Maybe buy a water well from Ten Thousand Villages, to alleviate thirst and disease for dozens of children in a part of the world in which just living is a dangerous adventure and drinking a glass of water is like playing Russian roulette.

Maybe you want to stay closer to home? The Surrey Christmas Bureau can always use a helping hand.

Send your cousins a card telling them how their Christmas gift money made life a little more bearable for children who really needed a warm coat – or maybe even those socks. And if they don’t appreciate it… well, then suggest they take it to the Returns counter.

Bob Groeneveld is editor of the Langley Advance.

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