The Right Gift

When finding a gift for a friend or a partner, it may be difficult to find the perfect thing for them. For many people, it is the thought and gesture that counts and the gift itself is not the endgame. 

The art of gift-giving has been an integral part of human relationships across many different cultures throughout the world and its history. 

Legend has it that King Nebuchadnezzar II made the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon as a gift to his wife, Queen Amytis. With a gift so grand and pricey, it would make any recipient of the gift happy, right? Well, as college students we don’t really have the riches to build something like the king did. So, what are some steps to make sure your gift is, well, a good gift?

Before deciding on what necklace or earring we should get, let’s look at what we intend with the gift. Is it to bring recognition for ourselves, or to bring the other person joy and happiness? Of course, the prospect of recognition will cross our minds, but should it be the final goal? By putting the joy of the other person ahead of your own desire for recognition, it shows them that you care and that they are a priority in your life. 

Similarly, a common insight that was shared among the people I talked to brought up consideration and thoughtfulness as a core aspect of gift-giving. For example, Austin Peng, a sophomore at Oregon State University, expressed that “It’s nice when they say something about an item and your partner remembers to get that gift for you.”

This not only helps you get a gift that is practical for the person in mind, but it also shows that you paid attention and understood them. In some instances, that recognition can be a better gift than the gift itself. This of course is going to require some attention and focus beforehand, so take notes!

Keeping notes of shared experiences is also a good foundation for a gift. If you’ve spent enough time with your target person, then you’ve probably been through some notable experiences with each other. Using that shared experience as a foundation, the gift can be added as a sort of reminder to that event. It allows both the giver and recipient to reminisce about the past while reveling in shared nostalgia. 

Of course, nostalgia is not the only feeling that can be shared through the exchange of gifts. Other feelings can also be achieved as long as the gift and the shared memory or experience make sense being paired together. 

Take for example, my friend JuJu Amath, who shares with me that “you can get me whatever you want, you could give me a piece of string and I would wear it around my wrist. It’s the thought that counts.” 

Let’s face it, there will always be another person like King Nebuchadnezzar out there with a bigger and shinier gift than you. But that isn’t the end game. A gift is the manifestation of affection into a physical form, and it helps us communicate that affection across space and time. So when we are selecting a gift, take time to pick the right gift and not the shiniest. Not yet anyway.