We have all heard the saying, “it’s the thought that counts!” This is usually said after someone receives a gift that maybe isn’t quite what they were hoping for. Or maybe it’s just a bad gift. Maybe you recently received some Christmas presents like this.
The problem with the saying is that while in some cases, there may have been some misguided good intentions, in other cases there might have been very little thought at all. Or maybe there was some thought, but not the kind of thoughts we’d like. If it were, “darn, I forgot about them,” or “thank goodness for regifting,” or “fruitcake can keep forever!” the thought actually doesn’t count for very much.
I think a saying that better captures the good intentions behind a gift would be: it’s the effort that counts.
For the past two years, I’ve received what many would describe as terrible Christmas presents from my preteen son (see below). First, it was a porcelain statue of what we call a “monkey boy,” and this year, it was an old Gerber Baby doll with moving eyes.
No, I’m not a collector of odd statues or antique dolls. Yes, I find both somewhat creepy. Yes, my son would have realized that these were probably the very last things I would have wanted for Christmas.
And that’s what makes them so wonderful.
Much to my chagrin—and some would say, my comeuppance—my son seems to have inherited some of my enjoyment in teasing others. But he didn’t take the easy way out. For these two gifts, he had to search for them, purchase them, hide them, and then wrap them. He did a great job at the wrapping, took lots of pleasure in presenting them, and told me he got good deals on both. I bet!
Despite the trouble of not knowing what to do with these gifts, I appreciate that he had to put some real effort into surprising me with them. And out of all the presents I was fortunate to receive for Christmas, I’ve probably talked the most about these.
I have to admit that I was pleased—and relieved—that he gave thoughtful presents to his sisters and mother. My older daughters surprise us each year with their homemade presents. One is very good at embroidery and the other at illustrations and writing. One gift this year was an illustrated children’s story for our youngest daughter. You can’t look at it without wondering how long it took her to complete. The effort makes it particularly special.
That’s something I think we all appreciate from others—even if it’s not something big. A coworker who stops what they’re doing and helps you do something, rather than just telling you how. A neighbour who knocks on your door to personally deliver a card, rather than just dropping it in your mailbox. Someone who returns your call or email quickly, rather than ignoring it or waiting weeks to respond.
It’s one of the reasons I make sure my gifts to my wife are nicely wrapped—even if the sweater inside is the wrong colour or style, at least she can see the effort that went into the gift. Thoughts are sometimes hard to judge, but the effort isn’t.