Hello, groovy freedomists. Today we are proud to offer a guest post from Penny, a terrific blogger who blogs over at shepicksuppennies.com.
Mrs. Groovy and I are big fans of Penny. And before we tell you why this is so, we want to share some pertinent facts about Penny.
Penny is a teacher and a reformed hoarder of shoes. She blogs about decluttering, spending, and living a more purposeful life. But most importantly, she blogs about battling six-figure debt on two teachers’ salaries (her husband is a teacher as well). Great freakin’ stuff.
So why is Penny one of our go-to bloggers?
Well, for starters, who doesn’t like to read about a real groovy person battling a loathsome debt monster? And who doesn’t like to read the work of a blogger who has such command of the English language? Very few bloggers we know can use a word such as “perspicacity” and still maintain a very inviting blog. But most of all, Penny is one of our go-to bloggers because she has a great moral sense—and has a great knack for keeping Mr. Groovy in line. Whenever Mr. Groovy veers off into ethically questionable territory, she is there with a kindly comment to guide him back into the human race. Heck, if it weren’t for Penny, Mr. Groovy would still maintain that higher education was created by the devil to pollute minds and drain wallets.
Without further adieu, then, here’s an example of Penny’s exquisite moral sense applied to something we don’t normally think is fraught with ethical challenges—gift-giving. It should come in very handy this Christmas. Enjoy.
“You haven’t given me a gift. You’ve given me an obligation.” Of all the witticisms, one-liners, and pearls of wisdom that Sheldon Cooper has uttered, that gem about gift giving is one of my favorites. He spoke those words in regards to the implied reciprocity of gifting. While it may be taxing to some people to determine an equally exciting gift of similar value to give to the gifter on the next gift-worthy occasion, for me the real headache lies in determining what to do with a gift after I’ve received it. More specifically, are we obligated to keep the gifts we receive not because they offer utility or add fulfillment to ours lives, but simply because they have been given to us by someone else?
In a word, no. But let’s back up. Recently, I joined a decluttering/minimalism group on Facebook. Virtual pandemonium ensued when a women posted that she was going to donate a necklace that her mother-in-law had gifted to her. It was not a family heirloom nor anything of great expense (I believe it still had a Goodwill tag on it!). But she might as well have said she was selling her grandmother.
The assaults on this woman’s character were vicious. No wonder you have a strained relationship with her. She’s showing you affection the only way she knows how. How ungrateful. All of sudden, the same people that advocated getting rid of beloved children’s toys that were no longer played with and favorite books that were no longer read wanted to get sentimental, lampooning someone else for not doing the same. While that “ungrateful” woman and I may be equally horrible people, I maintain that once a gift is given, it up to that individual to do what he or she would like with it.
If you give someone a frame, do you tell them where to hang it? If you buy someone an outfit that doesn’t quite fit, should he or she gain or lose weight? If you send someone cookies, do you tell them how to eat them? These questions are all absurd.
The entire notion of a gift receipt is centered on the fact that sometimes people have different tastes or need different sizes. I can no longer think of a single store that doesn’t have a “gift card mall” in it. Nevermind choosing a gift card for the store you’re shopping at, choose a gift card to any store in a fifty-mile radius. I’m fairly sure one of the reasons why gift cards have become so popular is the belief that receivers will be able to choose something they really love. Why, then, do we feel so obligated to keep things that were given to us?
I’m not suggesting that every gift you receive should be exchanged, sold, or donated. If it means something to you, treasure it. If you’ll use it, be my guest. I do, however, think that if a gift does not bring joy or usefulness to you, it is perfectly reasonable to part with it. Be grateful and sincerely appreciate the sentiment behind the gesture. Then, donate away.
So Tell Me…Am I an ogre? Have you ever felt a sense of obligation to keep something? Would you be offended if someone returned or exchanged a gift you gave them?