Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ninja Gift

On the eve of Valentine's Day, I am reminded of one of my favorite gift-giving activities of the Christmas season. Usually, I grapple with the question for the ages: do I spoil those around me with material gifts, or do I find a different way to express my love without consumerism overload?

The answer is simple: NINJA GIFT. Here's what I've done:

Every year at Christmas, I am gifted by friends, family, and my students with a multitude of wonderful things for myself and my family. Often the gifts are perfectly suited for us, or at least for re-gifting to someone close to us. But sometimes there is no place, no space, and no face fitting for these intentions, so I take them for a ride and leave them behind.

It started as an accident; an acquaintance gave me a bottle of anti-bacterial hand lotion in a scent called Hideous Overpowering Lily. Or something. I knew I couldn't exchange it, and I had no idea where it was purchased anyway. I had it in my purse when I went to my daughter's judo class, and since the decor in the restroom happened to match the label on the bottle, I considered it a sign: I Ninja Gifted it and went along my merry way. 

Another example: I have received the same toy for my children about three times. Though it's a popular Melissa and Doug toy that is found in roughly 50 local stores, I have no receipt and no way to exchange it. Rather than perpetuate this frustration by passing it along to a friend (who could ask me where I purchased it and my response would be "Ehhhhmmmm...") I took it to the pediatrician's waiting room and Ninja Gifted. You're welcome, drooling toddler!

Remember the scene in Dead Poets' Society when Ethan Hawke's character receives the same desk set from a family member every birthday? Substitute me for Ethan, leather gloves for the desk set, and Christmas for the birthday. Every. Single. Year. Needless to say, my family member also thinks I have huge paws. Whatever. Anyway, I left last year's pair in the Lord and Taylor dressing room. I like to think someone picked them up and clapped their large hands with glee felt like they hit the jackpot and waved at all their friends on the way out.

To me, Ninja Gifting is a way to rationalize (or least least unload) the many things that come into my house during the holidays, but also to give my five-year-old a healthy awareness of varying economic levels ("Not everyone has an American Girl Doll, babe. We can get your doll an outfit, but Sage's $250 hot air balloon is not happening. Ever.") and it's easier to show her in addition to telling her. So yes, it may seem odd, but both sides win. It's more calculated than a Goodwill drop off, because they're little surprises that hopefully give someone a smile. Also, it forces us to be creative about who might need something that we no longer do. Sometimes it's something as simple as leaving those diapers your baby is outgrowing in the "Family Area" of the public bathroom, knowing that someone breathed a huge sigh of relief because they forgot to pack diapers, their babe had a blowout, and you saved the day. Emerson gets a kick out of leaving "secret surprises for strangers" along the way, and with any luck, one karmic day, something may appear from a fellow ninja just when we need it.  

Wishing you all a Happy Valentine's Day - and the perfect gift, of course.

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