Gift Giving

We trust you had a happy Christmas and a merry New Year and enjoyed all the rest of the good things the yuletide season delivers us.

We’re assuming, check that, we’re knowing that our festive season was, well, festive. (Due to the logistics of publishing, we are writing this halfway through December.) Be that as it may, though, because we are so blessed in the family, friends, and girlfriend department, it is very safe to say we probably over-indulged in the food, egg-nog (chances are, other things were mixed with that) and gift areas.

And now, even though we’re in a brand new month of a brand new year in a brand new future, we’d like to spend a moment or three on that last topic.

For starters, let’s start at the root of it. What is a gift?

We’ll save you from the dry, dictionary definition, dear zombie. In the proverbial clamshell, a gift is something you give someone voluntarily without payment in return. There are bazillions of reasons to give a gift to someone, but we don’t have enough word space here to get to them all.

We’d like to talk about the gift itself, anyway. In particular, we’d like to discuss a gift we received halfway through last year from a complete stranger. (And when we say complete, we mean complete. To this day we still don’t know who gave us this gift.)

See, our day job is on the support staff at a local high school, and halfway through June, 2011, an almost intolerable excitement blanketed the entire building. The weather was warming, exams were all done, and a two month reprieve was beckoning. (The students were pretty excited, too.)

As we’re sure you can imagine, things can get pretty darn hectic at the end of any given school year. There is a lot going on, you’ll have to take our word for it.

So there we were, deep into the “no more pencils, no more books” phase of the year, when we noticed an upside down book sitting on a planter in the atrium. We figured somebody had merely forgotten it and would return to claim it, so we left it there.

It was still there at the end of the day and the next morning, as well. Same thing the day after that. Day four rolls around, and lo and behold, the book is still there. We’re on our way in the school library’s direction so we decide to pick it up and return it to its rightful place.

Imagine our shock when we discovered that this particular book’s rightful place was right in our very own hands.

See, when we picked up the book to return it to the library, our avid reader section of our brain checked out to see what book it was. When we turned it over to look at the cover, we were greeted with a message taped to the front.

“Whoever finds this book, please read it. This book is THE best.”

The tome was called ‘J-Pod’, written by Douglas Coupland. Our Douglas Coupland trivia was rusty, okay, okay, it was totally skin deep. Besides knowing he was the man to coin the phrase ‘Generation X’ we didn’t know much about him at all.

After checking out the book and finding nothing identifying the book as belonging to the library, the school, or anything, we showed it to one of the office’s administrators.

“Looks like somebody gave you a gift,” she smiled.

We shrugged, and took the book home. We’d just finished three straight volumes of Stieg Larsson, and were looking for something of the lighter literary fare to tackle next.

After dinner, though, we picked up the book and read the message on the cover of the book again. It struck us as so simple, yet oddly touching. It was cool enough that this person, this total stranger, found him or herself a book that they loved, but apparently loving the story wasn’t good enough. No, the stranger went to the trouble of finding a sticky note, write a personalized message, and then threw caution to the wind and let random chance decide who would find it.

In short, dear zombie, it wasn’t enough for he or she to love the book, they felt an innate need to share that same love.

We decided that feeling of theirs deserved to be respected so we decided to give the book a shot. The delight and surprise we felt because we actually loved the story was indescribable.

We weren’t alone, either. My girlfriend’s father Gary loved it, as well. So did my best friend’s wife. That’s as far as it’s going, though, amongst our circle of family and friends.

No, to do this gift proper, we realized we need to add our own message to the book’s cover and leave it at the park, mall, or some other public place and hope to give to someone else that which we were lucky enough to be on the receiving end of.

And that, dear zombie, is what gift giving is all about.

That’s also your lesson for this month. Give unconditionally. Preferably to a stranger or to someone that has zero idea it came from you. There are infinite ways you can do this, and no, we aren’t going to help you. That’s part of your lesson.

Until then, keep an eye out for an apparently orphaned Douglas Coupland book, okay?

Humanity Man resides on this beautiful, yet goofy planet we call Earth. He likes love, peace, and the book, J-Pod. He dislikes hate, war, and people who don’t appreciate even the simplest of gifts.