By Lana Turnbull
Somewhere in the vocabulary of advertising a seismic shift has taken place. Last holiday season, without warning I noticed that “giving” had become “gifting,” as if the simple act of giving alone didn’t carry enough clout to be associated with whatever goods or services were being touted as indispensable. It was usually used in reference to an item that looked expensive, but wasn’t. The concept appears to be that when you give such an item the recipient will think you paid more than you did (and the perceived cost measures how much you care). I tried to make sense of this emerging trend in advertising copywriting, and finally I decided gifting is what you do with your pocketbook and giving is what you do with your heart.
All of this reflection on the idea of giving and what it means reminded me of one of my favorite books by Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree. If you know it you know it is the story of a tree who loved a little boy. Throughout his life, whatever the boy asked of the tree was freely given. At first the boy asked for simple things that were easy for the tree to give, but eventually the boy asks the tree for great sacrifice and yet she still gives without begrudging everything the boy asks of her.
The kind of giving that Shel Silverstein writes of is like the love a soldier gives to his country, a parent gives to his or her child, or a fireman or police officer gives to his community – that full measure that can’t be equated to dollars and cents because it is paid for in blood, sweat and tears and comes from the heart.
We call this the season of giving. It all began with the greatest sacrifice the world has ever known, when a baby was born in a lowly manger. A baby that would grow up to give HIS full measure so the rest of the world could live. That is where the tradition of exchanging gifts began. But how far it has come from the original intent of sharing something of ourselves to show our love for someone else.
Maybe gifting isn’t such a bad name after all for the commercialized exchange of holiday gifts. We gift a mixer or a sweater, or a toy. But when it comes to sharing our hearts and sacrificing something we hold dear for those we love, giving is still the appropriate word, and I pray that it always will be.