One Reason to Give Is to Get

I’m a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas time gift giving. Sometimes I feel like if you’re going to spend $25 on me and I’m going to spend $25 on you, then let’s just do nothing and call it even, save the effort.

But when it comes to my wife, it’s a different story. I love buying presents for her, because I think I know exactly what’ll make her tear up with happiness on Christmas morning. Granted, she cries easily, but she’s going to love what I got her. So I spend my days leading up to Christmas making up silly songs about her present to torment her with the fact that I know what it is and she doesn’t. Maybe that’s mean, but I can hardly help it. I’m excited.

So what’s the difference between the gift giving that irritates me and the gift giving that I enjoy (and that irritates Molly)?

One difference, crass as it may sound, is what’s in both gifts for me.

It’s not exciting to give a mediocre gift to someone, all the while knowing that they’re getting a gift for me of the same value. It smacks of bartering. I know that’s a negative attitude and doesn’t do much for Christmas spirit. I’m working on it.

But when I get a gift for Molly, it is a joy, because I get to lavish her unexpectedly with things she’s going to love. And she’s not going to do the same for me in the same way, so it’s not a trade. (At least I hope she doesn’t, since it would be from the same bank account that I bought her gift with.)

I feel sort of bad about my Scroogy attitude toward the first kind of gift giving, but I don’t feel bad that I’m excited to give Molly a gift because of what it does for me. It’s not as selfish as it sounds—I love it because of how happy it’s going to make her.

Regarding generosity, Paul writes,

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Why would he say this if the goal weren’t to reap bountifully? The reason to sow is to reap. Is it OK, then, to say that the reason to give is to get? It depends on what I’m hoping to get by giving.

Whether I should or not, I don’t like swapping gifts, because it feels like I’m sowing sparingly, so I won’t really get anything out of it. But if I get to bountifully put my energy and money toward Molly, then I have every reason to happily anticipate reaping the rewards on Christmas morning. I don’t have to feel bad about eagerly awaiting my reward, because my reward is her big grin.

Now I’m nervous that I’ve talked up my present to my wife too much. I hope she likes it.