My husband is the person in the world to buy for. He is the kind of man who exists at such a deep level of contentment that mere man-made trinkets often fail to move him. While he has a healthy respect for material things, they will never have the ability to bring him any appreciable amount of true joy. For the past twenty years of our marriage, I have expended great effort trying to get a reaction out of him though my gift giving. Though grateful for the thought and effort, his response is often anything but reinforcing.
A few years ago, he mentioned to me that he regretted selling a Spider-Man comic to his buddy down the street when he was twelve years old. My eyes, which normally glaze over at the mention of comic books, widened. I paid rapt attention thinking surely this must be the gift idea that would finally get a rise out of my stoic spouse. I researched and found the comic book for sale at a local comic book store. I weakened a bit in the knees as I purchased the originally 20-cent comic book for way more money than I thought it was worth. But, if it made my husband happy, it would be worth it.
As Christmas approached, I excitedly anticipated his reaction to my “perfect” gift. I wrapped the comic in a box within a box so that that would be no premature guessing. I wanted him to be surprised. Christmas morning finally arrived and I was on the edge of my seat as I watched him open his gift. He pulled the comic of the box within a box and nodded. “Oh, Spider-Man number 121, the death of Gwen Stacy. I don’t have this one,” he says. Of course you don’t have this one, I thought. You’ve been pining away for this comic for four decades and I have brought it home to you. I waited patiently for his rapturous reaction. After examining the comic, “Great, thanks” he says as he puts down the comic and reaches for another gift. What! Is that it? Is that all I get? All of the work, the effort, all of the planning, all the dreaming of an enthusiastic response! I was crestfallen; disappointed was an understatement!
After expressing my displeasure at his emotionless response, my husband assured me that he very much appreciated the gift. He’s just not very expressive “in that way”. On that day, I concluded that “Great, thanks” was the best I could hope for or expect. I relinquished any and all expectations regarding my husband’s ability to be expressive in the gift-receiving department.
Several years later, during a random conversation, my husband revealed that one of the best gifts he had ever received was a set of Lone Ranger radio broadcast recordings that my mother had given him a few years prior. I was shocked! What! My mother’s random gift was one of the best gifts he had ever received! What about the costly comic? A heated discussion ensued. I felt hurt and disappointed in him and in myself. Why could I not make my husband happy? We had a great marriage. He seemed to me a happily married man. Why could I not find a gift for him that would make him smile, make him react, make him emote? I felt that I had failed in this area of our marriage. My husband is constantly giving me great gifts that elicit tremendous outburst of thank yous and heartfelt hugs. He had just that very day surprised me a dozen long-stemmed roses for no reason at all! I was shocked and elated! Why could I not reciprocate?
Hurt, I retreated, as I am predisposed to do. After a period of time, my husband searched me out. He sat down enveloping me in his loving embrace; I confess to him my feelings of failure. “Why can I not make you happy?”, I asked. He said, “You do make me happy. I love our life together. I love spending time with you. I love watching your reactions when I give you gifts. I love how you create such a beautiful home for the kids and me. I’m spoiled by the delicious meals that you make. I love you”. “Then, why can’t I give you a gift that will make you happy”, I pleaded. He replied, “Mary, you are the gift! You make me happy. You are my gift. And I get to enjoy you everyday. With you, everyday is like my birthday!”
I am the gift? If I am the gift why had I worked and strived and planned year after year to give my husband, and in reality, my children, my family and friends the best gifts possible? Why did I assess my value based on what I was doing in the moment as opposed to who I was being? Why had I sold myself short for so many years wishing to be a person of value when I apparently already was? Realization flooded my being. It became clear to me that my husband’s receptivity to my gift giving was not the real issue. The real issue was one of worth, self-worth!
I finally grasped that I am the gift that those in my sphere of influence need and want. I, not my offerings, am the “pearl of great price” to those who love me. I am not alone is assessing more value to things over self. You must know that you too are the gift that those who reside in the orbit of your life want and need. You with your uniqueness, your compassion, your love, your humor, your quirkiness, your you-ness! You are the gift that those in your world crave.
As the holiday season approaches, many of us are encouraged by high-powered advertising firms to shop ’til we drop, often spending far more than we can realistically afford in the process. We will search high and low for the perfect gift for those on our Christmas lists, thinking that somehow our love for them is transmitted by and through the present under the tree or that we are somehow elevated in worth or status by the expense of the gift. It is truly more blessed to give than to receive. From the heart giving is an all-encompassing joy that is not easily matched. But, while you shop this season remember that there is no gift that you can purchase that will ever be able to top the gift of yourself. You are the “pearl of great price”! The best gift to offer those you love is and always will be you!
— Mary C. Herrygers