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The Art of the Gift
b
y Barb Hansen
December 1, 2005

The most overworked word in the gift-giving season is the word “perfect.”  Browse holiday gift ideas on the Web and you get hundreds of familiar clichés like:

  • “Holidays are a perfect time to introduce the men in your life to___” (Just fill in the blank with a different for-males product.)

  • “The Holiday Survival Kit makes the perfect holiday gift for college students.” (What we really need is a Holiday Survival Kit for the parents of college students.)

  • “Holiday Gift Guide helps shoppers find the perfect gift for everyone.”  (Something tells me we won’t find anyone’s perfect gift here)

What makes a gift perfect? This is hard, right up there with what is the meaning of life. Selecting the perfect gift comes close to being an art form. It can’t be a mechanical thing like pushing NORMAL or even CHINA-CRYSTAL on the dishwasher. The perfect gift might jump out at you from a store shelf but it really won’t be perfect unless it says something about him or her and something about you, too.

First, of course, the perfect gift must reflect the relationship in an accurate way. You don’t give something personal to a casual acquaintance. That is, it has to be appropriate for the relationship.

Second, I think we agree that the perfect gift is something the other person will enjoy. I know somebody who gave a complicated 3D jigsaw puzzle to an aging aunt whose mental faculties were waning. That was not your perfect gift.

Third, the best gift will say something about who you are. I heard about an engaged-to-be-married young woman who gave her boyfriend a guided sportfishing trip for two. Though not an angler herself, she wanted her future husband to know she supported his passion. The young man asked her to join him on the fishing trip and she did, and that was another gift. It told him she might even become an angler, too 

Giving of your time seems to be a factor in a lot of good gifts. I’ve long admired the “Take Me Fishing” ad campaign by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation. Those ads are powerful because, in a flash, we remember that adults took time out of their lives to share their boating or fishing passion with us when we were children. They motivate us to do the same for the next generations.

Sharing your passion is good, too. We have some friends who gave their son a boat ride as a birthday present. He invited three of his classmates including a couple who would not have had that opportunity. It seems like there are a lot of families now without a dad and it was the dad, in days gone by, who took the child fishing or boating.

When you can’t invest your own time, it’s okay to give something that doubles their pleasure when they do go out in the boat.  I note, for example, that this year West Marine is promoting wireless weather forecasters, waterproof MP3 players and underwater cameras. 

You can give a boating gift that can be enjoyed from the comfort of home, say a boating calendar, a trip planner or a gift certificate for a boating course.

How about a book? One of my favorite boating books is Richard Bode’s classic, First You Have to Row a Little Boat. Bode writes about what he learned as a little boy from sailing and how those lessons helped him navigate life.

Like one’s first bike, a first boat is the gift that really delights. For the gunna-be, wanna-be boater in your family or extended family, you could make it happen with the gift of a canoe, a kayak or perhaps a little skiff.

It’s not easy to find the perfect gift. After all, the heart and the brain are at work here. You’ve got to know something about the other person. You’ve got to know something about yourself. Most importantly, perhaps, you’ve got to know something about the both of you.

You won’t know right away if you’ve given somebody the perfect gift. But if over time that person remembers it--let’s just say it was the gift of boating--and still treasures it after many years, then you’ll know. That’s the gift that keeps on giving. Times two. That’s perfect.
 

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Marinatown Marina 26° 38.5'N 81° 53.0'W
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