A middle-aged friend of mine was talking to a mutual friend of ours, a young single man, who (my middle-aged friend tells me) is trying to buy gifts for members of his family. The young man's mother and sister are easy, being currently gaga for anything Charles Wysocki. (No, I don't think anyone in that family reads this blog. If I've given away any secrets I'll try to think of some way to make it up to them. And apologize profusely, of course. And promise to never mention them again, even anonymously and vaguely at third hand, like I'm doing now...)
His father, on the other hand, is hard because he already seems to have everything he needs, and as a matter of course goes right out and buys whatever he wants, if he decides it's worth it. While this keeps his own life on a steady-ish keel, it would tend to make it hard for would-be gift-givers to stay ahead of him, I think. Either he has the thing already, or he's decided it's not worth the money. Either way, it's not making life easy for the would-be generous around him.
But this young man's brother is hardest of all, because his brother is currently in a minimalist phase, bragging that everything he owns he can fit in the trunk of his car. My middle-aged friend is of the opinion that everyone should go through a phase like this at least once in his or her life - having tried it himself and having found it a very satisfying way to live, at least for a while - and so is happily siding with the minimalist brother, who wants no extraneous stuff. After a bit of thought, he suggested that perhaps a gift certificate for a service or for gas might be a good idea? (Full disclosure: Our bookstore is inside a gas station, and so a gift certificate for gas would be nice for us as well as for the brother. And please don't yell at me about gas prices. We don't set them, and we get paid per gallon pumped, which means that when people cut back, we have to cut back.) It was also thought that perhaps an offer to do something for the brother might be a good idea? I also thought food would be good.
But that's assuming the brother wouldn't be upset by getting a gift. In our experience, a goodly percentage of people going through a minimalist phase would rather not be handed a gift, it being seen as something of a burden one way or another, a tie to a way of life they're trying to leave behind, or at the very least an unwanted distraction.
So, if you've been in a gift-giving mode and the givee was in a I-don't-want-any-more-stuff mode, what did you try that worked? Or didn't? (Assuming you can share the story without betraying any confidences, of course.)
If there's anyone out there who has taken a vow of poverty, perhaps you could give us a hint or two from the other side?
The Changing World of Publishing - Philip Yancey writes about this many years of experience in publishing. I had an enlightening experience [...]
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