I love to buy gifts. Thinking about just the right present for the people I love, looking for hints and clues throughout the year to find that special thing that is just what they want or need. What is really fun is when I can completely surprise them!
A couple months ago, my dear husband had a milestone birthday. The big 5-0! To be honest, I had been thinking about what to do for this birthday for years. I know, I have a problem! I wanted to do something special to show him how much I appreciate him. Now, my husband is not into stuff. He will be the first to tell you not to buy him ties or cologne. As an R.N., he has few opportunities to wear either. My husband’s love language is quality time. He is happiest spending time with the people he loves and his perfect gift is an experience. It doesn’t have to be skydiving or running with the bulls type of experience, but he would much rather do than have.
So what to do? He is a sports fanatic, so maybe book a suite for a Lions game? No, too big a chance the home team would ruin his day. He is a social person, maybe a surprise party? Unfortunately, being born around Thanksgiving makes party planning a challenge and with our schedules it would be difficult to make it work.
Then, I found it! The perfect gift, the most amazing experience for my animal loving husband. The man who dreams of being a docent at the zoo after he retires. Mingle with the Macaroni’s! Two hours behind the scenes learning about penguins and the opportunity to feed and interact with them! The look on his face was pure joy as we were approached by Gentoo, Rock hopper and Macaroni penguins looking for a tasty snack. Our family of four had an exclusive, once in a lifetime opportunity that we were able to experience together.
Maybe my husband is on to something. In a society of more stuff is better, it’s time to take a closer look at the validity of that idea. How many gifts have you received that you loved at the time but then they ended up collecting dust? Or let’s talk about the well-meaning gifts that should have never made their way out of the store. Who really needs a Chia Pet? The pleasure we take in material gifts often fades quickly, even when they are things we were really excited to receive.
In the study, “To Do or to Have? That is the Question,” the researchers concluded that doing things makes people happier than having things. They are not alone, many studies have found that material possessions do not equal happiness and that experiences are more fulfilling than things. Do we really need studies to tell us this? I think we can look to our own lives to see that is true. The excitement I feel when I get something new always fades with time, but whenever I think back to a vacation or special event it brings me joy. Then there is the anticipation we have while planning activities and then patiently (or not so patiently) counting down the days. Even when things don’t go as planned, we often look back and laugh. For years, every road trip my husband and I took started with driving through some type of natural disaster! The memories of time spent together, whether on the beach in Hawaii or in a very chilly penguin habitat, are enhanced with each recollection. Most importantly those shared experiences strengthen our bonds with each other.
Does this mean I will stop buying gifts? No. To be honest, sometimes I tease my husband when he buys me an “experience gift” that he is buying himself a present as well. Sometimes it’s true, but is that really such a bad thing? If I were to lose all my possessions tomorrow, there would obviously be a sense of loss but I would still have so much more in the memories and relationships that life has brought me. The older I get the less I need and the more I realize what I already have. That is probably the best gift.