The Unwanted Gift – An Exercise For The Mind

We’ve all had it happen – a guest to our house presents us with a gift. Carefully chosen, cleverly wrapped, it is meant to represent the epitome of good manners and show us how much the presenter wishes to be friendly toward us. We open it and find ourselves staring down into The Pit. The present is a problem.

a. It is actually offensive. If you are a member of a religion that disdains pork, a glazed presentation ham is just not going to make it. Even with pineapple rings and a ribbon around the bone.

Staring at it, you need to make some fast decisions. Did the giver realise that you don’t eat ham – that you can’t eat ham? If they have no idea of your dietary laws, perhaps not. On the other hand, if they are normally in the next seat to you at the schul or next rug to you at the mosque, you can be sure that there is an ulterior message. Do you refuse it? Do you fling it? Do you express effusive thanks and say that you will save it for a special occasion? Only you can judge what effect your actions will have on the giver. Good luck.

b. It is gauche, kitsch, trite, and durable. This gift will last for YEARS…and if the person who has given it to you is going to return repeatedly during those years, they are going to expect to see it. Make no mistake – a mother bear shows no greater solicitude and concern for her cub than your Auntie does for that knitted brown sweater with the flower on it. You don’t get rid of the brown flower sweater this side of the grave.

c. It is horribly, horribly expensive. You can see at a glance that the giver has starved themselves and deprived their children to buy it. If you accept it you will be taking away a decade of their working life…can you do it? Should you do it? What will they want in exchange?

d. It is nasty and cheap. The price of a gift should have no bearing upon the gratitude that you express, but let’s face it – we are but human. If it is a gew-gaw obviously picked up in a transit lounge or local servo, and if it still has the Caltex price tag attached, are you obliged to praise it and dissolve in happy tears?

e. You have exactly the same thing on display on the hall table beside the unwrapped present. No-one can object to having another 10 Kg gold bar as a present, but yet another stuffed aardvark is a different matter.

f. It is the same thing that you gave to the giver last holiday. Not a similar one…the SAME one. Even the gift card is the same card, with their name covered over in White-out and yours substituted.

This is great. Accept it, coo over it, hug it and kiss it and call it George. Then give it back to them on your next visit to their place. White-out the card.

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