Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why I Will Never Give My Father-in-Law a Home Depot Gift Card

Every year my in-laws go about the annual drawing of the names for the upcoming Christmas gift exchange and frequently I have received Tom, my father-in-law, as the recipient. This last Christmas was no different. In true fashion, the only item he put on his list of suggested gifts was a gift card to Home Depot. Over the years, his "wish list" has never changed except for the occassional switch of gift card to Lowe's Hardware.
I have nothing against Home Depot. It is actually a favorite store of mine, but there is nothing special about giving Tom a gift card to the place. Tom is someone who has "everything" and is also a very practical man who doesn't want others to make a fuss over him. A gift card to a hardware store is something that he doesn't need, but can always use. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if he uses said gift cards to purchase gifts for others. 
In the past when I've enquired about the delimina, the answer I usually got was "that's what he wants," but I couldn't help thinking, "Is that what he REALLY wants?"
I'm not a huge fan of wish lists in general, but I do see their value, especially when purchasing a gift for someone you don't know well. I have known Tom for over 20 years, so I thought I should be able to come up with something that would be more personal. This was easier said than done. 
Like all families, my father-in-law and I have had our disagreements and at at first glance, it would appear that he and I do not have anything in common. That may have been true earlier on, but we have both changed over the years. When I first met him, he was a little rough around the edges. He has since softened a bit. About a year ago he decided that he was "into" hugs, so now we hug. Life will do that to you. We have learned how to deal with and appreciate each other.
I knew that if worse came to worst, I could always give him the orange card, but I really wanted to do something different. I said a short prayer asking God for inspiration and left it at that. Without thinking, I attended the screening for Angelina Jolie's movie Unbroken and couldn't help thinking that Tom would appreciate it. He has many years of Navy service behind him and I knew that he was a fan of military-themed stories. Before the movie was over, I decided to buy him a copy of the book of the same name and a gift card...to a movie theater...where he and my mother-in-law could enjoy the film if they so desired.
During our Christmas brunch, Tom began to open his gift from me without much excitement; he was expecting a gift card after all. The fact that he was opening a box was surely used as red herring to throw him off the track on what the gift truly was inside. However, his expression changed when he got the wrapping off and opened the box. He looked at me with surprise and I told him that I saw the movie, enjoyed it and thought that he would too. He quickly told me that he had just finished another book (either by the same author or about Louis Zamperini, the man featured in Unbroken, I don't remember which) and was wanting to read this book. I think that he was shocked that I didn't just take the easy road and buy him the gift card that he had requested, but I wanted him to know that I appreciated him too much to do that.
In my immediate family, my wife and kids gave me a few gifts that weren't on my "list" either and I think that they are my favorite. The fact that they tried to find gifts that they thought that I would like, without checking with me first, make them much more special. I doubt that I am alone. We humans want to know that others "get" us.
Some people are afraid of going rogue and not buying what is on the list. "What if I buy the wrong color? What if buy the wrong thing? What if I buy something that they already have?" they say. Who cares? The old adage, "It's the thought that counts" applies here. Some have used that phrase for justifying buying a a generic gift, but really, that is a misnomer. Are you really thinking of the other person when you purchase that gift card at your local grocery store or are you just knocking off another thing off your to-do list?

And what happens if you are the recipient of a gift that someone else thought you would like but you clearly don't? Thank them anyway and appreciate the sentiment behind the present. That's it. No harm, no foul. Be grateful that you are more important than a gift card.

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