It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Christmas is Coming

Musing on Christmas gifts. I get gifts every year from my clients, some of which are perfect and greatly appreciated, others of which, ah, not so much.

I will say up front that I understand that gifts are not obligatory. There is nothing saying that my parents need to give me a gift at all. The fact is, they do. It is also true that these gifts are an expression of their valuation of the service I offer.

About five years ago, I was given the best gift I have ever received. This mother gave me a portion of her Christmas bonus (I have no idea it if was 1% or 90%). The cheque was generous, and be sure I appreciated that. However, it was the sentiment expressed on the card which accompanied the cheque that mattered most of all: “This is your portion of my Christmas bonus, which I would not have been able to earn had I been worrying about my daughter. I am able to be my best at work, knowing that she is getting the best with you. Thank you.”

You know what? I actually teared right up when I read that. It remains the single best gift I have ever, ever received from a daycare parent, not because of the generosity of the cheque, but because of its symbolism. Mom saw me as a contributor to her work productivity, and so she shared her reward for that productivity with me. It was a measure of the value she placed on my contribution to her world – to her peace of mind.

Last year I received a range of gifts. Three of them spoke of that kind of appreciation. They had been carefully chosen with consideration given of me, my character, my needs. One was a weekend car rental – a great gift for a woman who, at that point, didn’t own a car. One was a hand-knit scarf, knit in shades carefully chosen to match my dress coat – not something the parents saw me wear often. Someone was paying attention!

I also received a couple of token gifts. You know the kind. Perhaps like us you keep a stash of small, nice, generic items, to be given to people who unexpectedly give you a gift, and you wish to reciprocate. They’re impersonal, inexpensive little throw-away gifts. The sort of gife you give the paperboy. No personal thought went into it, because they’re not intended for a specific person. Call me shallow, but a box of a dozen pouches of hot chocolate screams “throw-away” gift.

I should be ashamed of myself, qualifying my gifts in this way. Gifts are, after all, gifts. “It’s the thought that counts!” someone out there is indignantly huffing. Well, true. And how much thought, do you think, went into the grocery store box of hot chocolate? In pouches, yet. As was so well expressed by the woman who shared her Christmas bonus with me, the gift is ultimately an expression of their valuation of the service I provide their family. I did not feel much valued by the hot chocolate people. I did feel valued by the scarf family.

For it is, indeed the thought that counts.

December 20, 2005 Posted by | Christmas, daycare, manners, parents | 20 Comments