Giving With Both Hands


It's the week before Christmas! And most of us are up to our jingle bells with lists of things to do, people to see, and gifts to buy. With so little time on our side, it's easy to phone-in our gift presentation. I mean, how many of us have defaulted to a wrinkly, tired old gift bag just because it's all you can manage, find or muster? 

Well, I certainly have been guilty as charged a time or two. And it wasn't always induced by a holiday frenzy. Truthfully, it could have happened any time of year. Being the workaholic that I am, I often would wait until the last minute to find someone a birthday present, stressing to find something cool enough, and even show up at a said party with gift...wait for it...unwrapped. Or maybe packaged in whatever brown bag the store had on hand. I felt that it was OK, though, because I believed the value of the gift, was the gift itself—not the presentation.

But something strange shifted in me a few months ago, when attending a Japanese Spa in Santa Fe, NM. (If you haven't been to Ten Thousand Waves, you must go!) There I was, checking in at the counter, waiting for my towel, robe and sandals. And with the utmost reverence the desk clerk carefully presented my items to me with both hands and a slight bow. Not as in "bow" with ribbon, but "to bow" as a sign of respect. It almost took my breath away to be treated with such reverence in such a seemingly unceremonious event. I picked up my items with both hands—intuiting that this was the very least I could do to honor his effort.

Walking away, my mind was blown. I was flattered and humbled at the same time. When was the last time I had given something to someone with such heart, presence? The very manner in which he presented my items to me had created a gift out of seemingly nothing.

Going home that night I did a little research on the customs of giving and receiving in Japan. And I soon realized that the display I witnessed earlier was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of care and attention paid to presenting gifts. First of all, if gifting was a sport, Japan would sweep the Olympics every time. They have an occasion for almost every life event imaginable for giving gifts. And there are no limits to the beauty considered for wrapping gifts. The most popular ways to wrap gifts are wrapped are with furoshiki and ornate wrapping paper. In many cases the beauty of the packaged gift is more important than the contents of the gift itself.

But most importantly, gifting in Japan isn't about a simple transaction of 'something cool' or beautiful from one person to another. It's a ceremonial art that's been perfected for millennia to demonstrate undying devotion for someone special — or even someone not so special, like some lady at a spa where you work. It's about showing up and being exquisitely present in that very moment. Giving generously of yourself, and to ultimately, create a heartfelt connection with another human being. 

So, this holiday season, I am going to take a new approach to giving gifts. While I can't help but to want to give a crave-worthy gift, I want to be sure I follow through with the gesture by showing my affection with a thoughtfully wrapped gift. And maybe just one gift, not several. To be sure to create an opportunity where I can give with my undivided attention, gratitude, and with both hands.