Coming up with what might be considered the ideal gift for someone is not an easy task. After all, the value of the gift will be determined by the receiver. And what one recipient considers best might not be so for another.
For instance, a teenager may feel that the latest electronic gadget would be a perfect gift. An adult, on the other hand, may deeply treasure receiving a gift of sentimental value, such as a family heirloom. In some cultures, the preferred gift for young and old alike is money, allowing the receiver to use it for whatever he or she wants.
Despite the challenge, many thoughtful individuals continue in their quest for a gift most suitable for someone special. While finding such a gift may not always be possible, keeping in mind certain factors would likely increase the chances for success. Let us consider four that can contribute to satisfaction on the part of the receiver.
The recipient’s desires. A man in Belfast, Northern Ireland, called a racing bike he received when he was 10 or 11 years old the best present ever. Why? “Because I really wanted it,” he explained. That remark reveals that a person’s desire has much to do with whether he will cherish a gift or not. So think about the person to whom you intend to give a gift. Try to identify what he may value, because a person’s values often influence his desires. For example, grandparents often value spending time with family. They may desire to see their children and grandchildren as frequently as possible. A family vacation including the grandparents would likely be more appreciated than any other gift for them.
A key to being aware of a person’s desires is to be a good listener. The Bible encourages us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak.” (James 1:19) As you engage in everyday conversation with your friends or relatives, listen closely for clues that indicate their likes and dislikes. Then you may be in a better position to give a gift that they will enjoy.
The recipient’s needs. A recipient may highly cherish even the simplest gift if it fills a particular need. But how can you know what someone else might need?
It may seem that the easiest way to find out is to ask what the person needs—or, for that matter, wants. However, for many gift-givers, this takes away part of the joy of giving, as they much prefer to surprise the receiver with just the right gift. Furthermore, while some people may talk freely about their likes or dislikes, often they can be rather private regarding their needs.
Therefore, be observant and take special note of the person’s circumstances. Is he or she young, old, single, married, divorced, widowed, employed, or retired? Then give thought to what gifts may address a need the person has.
To gain insight into the needs of the intended recipient of your gift, consult with others who have been in similar circumstances. They may be able to tell you about special needs that are not widely known by others. With such input, you may now be able to give a gift that fills a need that others would not think of.
The timing. The Bible states: “A word spoken at the right time—how good it is!” (Proverbs 15:23) This scripture shows that the timing of our words can make a big difference. It is similar with our actions. Just as words spoken at the right time can be very pleasing to the hearer, a gift given at the right time or on the appropriate occasion can contribute greatly to the receiver’s happiness.
A friend is getting married. A youth is soon to graduate from school. A married couple is expecting a baby. These are but a few of the many occasions for which gifts are often given. Some find it practical to keep a list of such special events that will take place in the coming year. In this way they can plan ahead for the gift that would be best for each occasion.*
Of course, you need not limit gift-giving to special occasions. The joy of giving can be experienced at any time. However, a word of caution might be in order. For example, if a man were to give a woman a gift when there is no apparent reason for doing so, she might conclude that the gift was an indication of his interest in getting to know her better. Unless that is the true and appropriate intention, such a gift may lead to misunderstandings or complications. This underscores the need to consider another important factor—the giver’s motives.
The giver’s motives. As the previous example shows, it is good to consider whether the recipient might misinterpret the giver’s motives. On the other hand, the giver would do well to examine his or her own motives. While most people would like to think that their motives for gift-giving are honorable, many give gifts during certain times of the year because they feel pressured to do so. Still others give in hopes of receiving preferential treatment or something in return.
What can you do to ensure that your gift-giving is done with good motives? The Bible says: “Let everything you do be done with love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14) If your giving is motivated by genuine love and concern for the recipients, your gifts will likely be received with joy and you will experience the greater happiness that comes from true generosity. When you give from the heart, you also make our heavenly Father rejoice. The apostle Paul commended the Christians in ancient Corinth when they generously and happily supported relief work for their fellow Christians in Judea. “God loves a cheerful giver,” Paul told them.—2 Corinthians 9:7.
Giving attention to the factors we have discussed can contribute greatly toward your giving gifts that make others happy. These factors—and more—have played a part in God’s arrangement for mankind to receive the greatest gift of all. We invite you to consider what this grand gift is by reading the next article.
Many people also give gifts during birthday and holiday celebrations. However, these occasions often involve practices that are in conflict with what the Bible teaches. See the article “Our Readers Ask—Is Christmas for Christians?” in this magazine.