Monday, June 27, 2022
Gifts & Friendships
As many do today, my husband and I are trying to downsize. Who needs all that stuff, anyway?
I’m having difficulty trying to understand why people are so set on giving me stuff. I assume that they want to acknowledge their regard for me with something tangible. I appreciate that greatly – it is nice to know that someone thinks enough of me to get me a gift. It’s like getting a handwritten letter in the mail: Someone spent time and effort to say “hello.”
Most of the physically tangible gifts are coffee mugs. Some feature a topic or picture significant to both “gifter” and “giftee.” Some provide amusement for the fun they poke at a mutual peeve or passion. They are all really cool! Not one is a bland afterthought (thank goodness, no smiley faces or cute kittens!).
BUT! Among other items, we end up with eight or ten new mugs every year. Our cupboard bulges with them. I must cull them regularly to make room for the next installment. This is what it comes down to: “I can’t keep them all, but I really like this one!” “This one will be a collector’s item one day!” “What an unusual glaze and shape!”
The box of culled keepers in the basement gets exchanged for a bigger one to fit in the latest.
How do I choose?
The darned thing is, my husband and I never use the standard, 12-ounce coffee mug commonly found on every store and gift-shop shelf. We are into mega-mugs, big time. Phillip uses 1-quart insulated metal ones for his iced coffee. I have three monster mugs that hold 24 ounces each, only one cup shy of a quart. I make my hot tea every morning and these huge mugs satisfy me all morning and half the afternoon.
Whether it’s mugs or other items, I fail to convince friends that we don’t need stuff from them to prove their friendship. Their friendship is all I need, not tangible proof of it. I’m on the same wavelength as Charlotte the spider (below). Let’s visit, write a letter or an email, give me a ring. If something tangible must be given, make it an edible.
That’s my system. During the holidays, my gifts are loaves of oatmeal bread. They are always the right color, always the right size, and they take up space for a very limited period of time. No long-term accumulation. No dusting required (and you know what I’ve already said about dust.)
Does this gift-giving enthusiasm reveal something about people’s values? Friends who give me stuff all the time obviously value my friendship, but I wonder if their confidence is shaky about how much I value them. Are they trying, in effect, to buy my friendship? I’d be surprised if it were conscious or intentional, but the stuff is burying me.
Maybe it’s a result of our increasingly warped culture, which promotes a price tag on everything, including intangibles like friendship. That’s a sad commentary. When friends give me a gift, do they expect one in return? In most cases, I doubt it. But in cases when that may be true, to me that’s bartering, a business transaction. There’s no emotional or personal investment in that.
If we are friends, I want to swap ideas with you, exchange good books (then pass them along to share the wealth and reduce clutter), participate together in cultural and entertainment events, share both silly and serious conversations, meet over a cup of tea and a cookie. That’s more than enough proof of our friendship.
To Tease Your Mind
I believe the greatest gift I can conceive of having from anyone is
to be seen, heard, understood, and touched by them.
The greatest gift I can give is
to see, hear, understand, and touch another person.
psychotherapist and author
“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte.
“That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
Charlotte the spider speaking to Wilbur the pig
in Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
The World of Values
I recently signed up for a free, six-week series about values. This series is called Transformation Tables, from Change Your World, a leadership organization founded by John C. Maxwell and Rob Hoskins. The idea is that no matter your circumstances, you can change your world for the better, starting even with the smallest change. It’s a matter of mindset. The world is professional at telling you how useless you are, but you don’t have to listen to it: It’s just plain wrong!
In the one-hour online sessions, our group discussed – or, more accurately, revealed – our individual understanding of and relationship with these six values: Hope, Listen, Value Others, Integrity, Forgiveness, and Multiplication (sharing).
The book, Change Your World, is full of examples of how the simple kindness of one person transformed another, giving hope. We all need hope. We ask only to be recognized as sentient humans, to be listened to for a moment. When we value others, we are valued. When we maintain our integrity, when we humble ourselves enough to forgive others of whatever offence either received or perceived, we learn to forgive ourselves. When we have changed ourselves by recognizing these values, we are then ready to share these values with others, all of which improves our little corner of the world. These incremental changes often transform into global changes for the better. It’s all about healing, sharing, and collaborating. We are stronger together than alone.
For each of us, these sessions were a surprisingly deep dive into introspection. “How committed am I to each value?” The group shared openly and transparently, but not for critical review or assessment by the others in the group. Personal revelation into ourselves gave others insight to issues we all have – issues of different depth or significance at any given time, perhaps, but the same issues. These things are universal issues, but tough, so we hide them, sugar-coat them, ignore them.
Each of us shared stuff that often had us all in empathetic tears. We could all relate. Bringing things into the light helps us to purge them.
The others in the group didn’t have answers for me, nor I for them. That’s not what these sessions were for. But talking about them opened doors in each of us to seek solutions, to find positive roads to fulfillment, however each of us defines that.
These sessions dealt with internal values. The next set of sessions in a few weeks will address ways to put these values into action. It should be most interesting!
Assessing oneself is a useful exercise to conduct now and then. It can reveal what’s working, and identifying what’s not working enables redirection of our path to reach our goals.
With similar thoughtfulness, Mary O’Reilley talks about ways of mental regrouping in her book, The Barn at the End of the World. She goes to France for a month-long retreat in a monastery setting run by Vietnamese priests. There is a certain value to denying oneself bodily indulgences and enduring harsh living conditions – practicing meditation, shivering under thin blankets, a diet primarily of gruel and greens, and curbing the tongue. It often results in spiritual enlightenment, a cleansing of the soul’s palate, so to speak.
O’Reilley appreciates what she achieves during this retreat. But by the time she heads for home, she really needs to cleanse another palate – only a cream tart will do.
Whether we value integrity or friendship, or both (which we should), sometimes it all boils down to something as simple as a cream tart.
In the name of caloric integrity, I’ll eat only half. In the name of friendship, I’ll give you the other half.
Updates on My Writing Projects
Nicodemus – I’m still going strong on this novella, working my way through a second draft. Still highly intriguing and full of creative challenges. My fellow writers in The Room to Write’s critique group are always coming up with phenomenal suggestions to improve the story. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Beyond End Of Watch – This is my non-fiction work that’s been on hold since the virus struck, about police families surviving line-of-duty deaths. I’ve been poking at it recently, to jump-start it back to life. Some of that is gleaning material from old emails that have collected in my inbox (very much in need of culling) so I don’t lose valuable information and contacts.
Brass Castle Arts – As some of you know, in January 2022 I launched my long-time, very small part-time business into full-time operation, offering copyediting and copywriting services. After over a year of networking in several groups (thanks to my good friend JoJo LaRiccia, the best video content creator in the business!), the seeds I planted last year are beginning to bear fruit, and work is coming in. They say that networking is more about farming than hunting, and it’s true. You cultivate relationships with people, become their friends, and then the ground is ready for doing business. I meet amazing people from all over the world every week!
I like to post “wordsmith tips and tricks” to my readers. You might wonder why I do that. Doesn’t that encourage prospective clients to do the work themselves and leave me out of the loop?
I’m not worried about that. Someone who has mastered the English language already knows these things. But most people haven’t wrestled it to the ground, and they aren’t about to take it up professionally. They’re too busy doing their thing, chasing their passions, running their businesses. That’s what they know best.
The tips and tricks I share are useful tools. I hope they create incremental measures that make you more confident with English usage. Not only will they help you to improve your focus on your thoughts and ideas, to put them more succinctly into a rough draft – if nothing more – you’ll also get better at identifying and deleting the clutter, too.
I’m not unlike an auto mechanic. The mechanic does the work your car needs, but also gives you tips to extend its life, like checking the oil and tire pressure.
The more work you do on your own – organizing your material at the very least – the more quickly a writer or editor like me will guide you to your goal.
Resources for Writers
Dalene Bickel’s “The Inkwell” Christian Writers’ Group
Wednesdays at 10-11 am Eastern, Zoom
Register at https://www.subscribepage.com/inkwell
This is a one-hour online meeting of like-minded Christian writers. It’s an opportunity to schedule at least one time a week to write (hard to do with the rest of the world crowding your calendar with distractions). You write what you want – fiction, non-fiction, devotionals, podcast scripts, blog posts – your choice. All are welcome. Free of charge. Come when you can.
The group chats for a few minutes about works-in-progress, then works quietly for 20 minutes, talks again for a few minutes about how it went, works quietly again for another 20 minutes, then closes with some last thoughts and ideas.
Image: swap money for gift
Image: Virginia Satir
Image: Garth Williams’ original illustration from Charlotte’s Web
Image: Change Your World – Transformation Table
Image: Change Your World – book
Image: cream tart