In my kitchen there’s a purple perpetual calendar: needlepointed on canvas with a lace trim around the outside, you can change the months, rearrange the dates, even add special little tiles with the symbols for the holidays on it. I did choose the purple color, but lace trim is not my usual decorating style, nor needlepoint on plastic canvas. But the person who made it and then gave it to me is a lovely nonagenarian, with limited income and a generous heart who wanted to show her affection. Love from a nonagenerian trumps my interior decorating scheme, so a purple lace-trimmed calendar has pride of place in my kitchen.
Those of us in knitting or crafting groups share horror stories about how our handcrafted gifts have been treated: the elaborate baby blanket, made with specialty yarn in an intricate pattern became a dog’s blanket; the hand towels, with personalized decorations stitched on them, never acknowledged with a thank you note, and I myself packaged the hats I knitted for my family in fruitcake tins so they would be glad to find a hat instead of fruitcake.
First, the economics. Knitting, crocheting, cross stitching, baking, quilting, any kind of crafting takes time. Time is money. At minimum wage, $7.25/hour here in PA, a scarf would cost on average $75 to make, a basic hat with no specialty stitches, would be about $36.25; for a cross stitched picture, since it takes about an hour to stitch 1 sq. inch, a picture that’s 5 x 7 would be 35 x $7.25 = $253.75. You can do similar arithmetic for quilting, crocheting, baking projects etc. to find out the worth of the time invested to make your gift. Then there’s the cost of the materials, which is another investment on your behalf. Homemade does not equal cheap. Someone considered you pretty important in order to make you that gift.
Second, the motivation. You may be getting a handcrafted gift because the giver is financially limited and has more time than money to share. You may have plenty of “stuff” in your home, and the giver knows you don’t really need anything . The giver may really enjoy crafting and so wants to share that love with you. The gift may be something personal, a gift only you will ever have because it’s made uniquely for you.
Third, how to respond. Even if you don’t like the gift, look beyond the object and see the love (if it’s from a close friend or family),appreciation ( if it’s from a neighbor, Secret Santa, or someone on your mail/garbage/newspaper, etc. route) or respect (from one of your students, a group member, a member of your congregation) that lies behind it. “Wow, that’ amazing! Thank you!” is a great, multi-purpose response.
Are you obligated to display an item that you don’t like or wear something unbecoming? No, but before you regift it or donate it to a thrift store, consider keeping it somewhere for a while where you can look at it every once in a while and remind yourself of the loving affection that took physical form in that crocheted toilet roll cover, or purple perpetual calendar.
How you receive an unexpected, even unwanted, gift teaches others in your life how to receive those types of gifts. Learning to recognize love when it comes in unexpected forms is an art; and the holidays are an excellent time to improve your skills as an artist.
If you receive food to which you are allergic, doesn’t fit with your eating plan, or you don’t like, then again, “thank you!”, recognize the love, and let the giver know you’ll be sharing this gift, and if it’s because of a health issue, let him or her know so if she’s planning a food gift for next year, it can be a more informed gift.
It would be more efficient if we could tell our loved ones which gift cards we would prefer to receive this year, and that would probably involve less expense for the giver. But just think: we matter enough for someone to make something just for us. Even if we’re one of the fifty people getting a similar cookie plate, it was still made FOR US.
It is truly a gift beyond measure, to know that we are seen and known and even valued. Valued enough for someone to try to make us happy by spending the most precious commodity in the world: time.
I have helpful thoughts for those planning to give homemade items, tomorrow.
Today’s Prayer Poem: 1Corinthians 13: The Message translation
The Way of Love
13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
Grace and peace to you,