By Ray Lucas
Don’t you love it when you receive a surprise gift that blows you away? It doesn’t happen as often for me as an adult, but I remember as a child receiving memorable gifts that were not only unexpected but turned out to be something I didn’t know I needed, and that suddenly completed me.
For Christmas one early year, I received a drum set – and it was awesome! I didn’t realize that I needed these drums until I had received the set from Santa, and then it was perfectly clear that I should have been banging on them for years. A few years later, I was awed by the gift of an Evil Knievel motorcycle jump set, complete with the Evil Knievel action figure in his star spangled cape.
More recently, my wife tracked down the folks who make maple syrup-flavored cotton candy at a local winter festival and had them make me a special batch for my birthday. I look forward to this particular treat each year for months prior and will buy a dozen bags of the delicious candy at the annual Maple Syrup Festival. So, to receive it as a gift out of season was unexpected and something I didn’t realize I needed.
These are the best kind of gifts: ones that take us by surprise. Gifts from loved ones who know us better than we know ourselves. They’re gifts that remind us of a need that we didn’t even know we had.
Don’t get me wrong, not every gift has to be some type of haiku experience to be appreciated. I recently received gift cards to Chick-fil-A and to the New Albanian from friends who well know my love languages (fried chicken and craft beer). Yes, they were gift cards, but they also were thoughtful expressions of appreciation by people who know what I love.
With that said, I find myself too often falling into the practical gift trap of buying a gift card to Lowes or a Visa one. These gifts are very practical and, I’m sure, appreciated but will soon be forgotten and don’t say all that I mean to say when giving a gift. Maybe they are OK for an occasional graduation gift, but I feel I can do better for a loved one’s wedding or a dear friend’s birthday. I, for one, need to step up my gift-giving game.
I found myself reflecting on the state of gift giving after a recent birthday gathering with friends. I had told my wife I didn’t need a party, but she assured me that I did. We met at a local pub, Pints and Union. As friends gathered, they overwhelmed me with gifts of rare craft beers, fashionable bourbons and even three pounds of bacon. “Beer, Bourbon and Bacon” – sounds like some wonderful music festival I should get tickets to this summer, regardless of the lineup.
Other friends shared unique gifts of safari hats, AA batteries (there’s a story there) and a bonfire cake right out of the Ace of Cakes show that all spoke of how well they know me.
But the most intriguing gift of the night came in a long, slender box that screamed Red Rider BB gun. When the time came to open the box, I pulled at the paper, ripped open the box and stood in awe as the gift came into full view. It was a three-foot Samurai Sword protected by a decorative sheath of black and yellow.
Like Ralphie from the classic Christmas Story movie, I smiled and momentarily dreamed of villains in my backyard that I could vanquish with this powerful sword in my grip. An eruption of cheers went out at the party as I held the sword above my head. Just as it had been with the drums from Santa, I was overwhelmed by this unexpected gift that I didn’t know I needed and that had suddenly completed me.
Walking out of the pub that night with the sword in my hand, I could feel the other patrons’ eyes upon me as they asked each other at their tables, “Is that guy carrying a sword?” I have never felt like such a badass.
Is a Samurai sword practical for a middle-aged banker?
Does it make sense to have a sword in my home, given young, curious children who have already asked to test its ability to cut their PB&J sandwich into diagonal halves?
Does this sword, straight out of the Kill Bill movies, complete me?
“JUST AS IT HAD BEEN WITH THE DRUMS FROM SANTA, I WAS OVERWHELMED BY THIS UNEXPECTED GIFT THAT I DIDN’T KNOW I NEEDED AND THAT HAD SUDDENLY COMPLETED ME.”
And was this sword the best gift I received that night?
Not even close.
The greatest gift I received that night wasn’t revealed to me fully until the next morning as I scrolled through photos my wife had taken during the prior evening’s celebrations. Embedded in the party images was a reminder that the greatest gift, even if not completely unexpected, was the company of loved ones who had gathered with me to celebrate another year of a life in progress.
Laughing, sharing stories and celebrating with family and friends, some of whom I’ve known since sharing the same babysitter at three years old, was a gift that I wasn’t even aware that I needed, but that suddenly completed me.
It was the gift of love and time together that even gift cards can’t buy.
By the way: the aforementioned sword is not only the best thing since sliced bread – it is the best thing to slice bread.