Busted Halo

Rebecca Gallo is trying to put into practice the lessons she learned while walking The Camino. Follow along as she continues her spiritual journey — whatever that might mean.

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November 13th, 2013

Giving: Reimagined


giving-reimaginedAfter he spent two weeks volunteering at a hostel for pilgrims along the Camino, a friend returned with a gift for me. I was surprised he bought me anything as he knows I’m a minimalist who is on a seemingly neverending quest to live with less “stuff”. He smiled as I opened the bag. It contained a bar of soap. He proudly declared, “I know you don’t want any more ‘stuff’ but this is something that you will use up and it will disappear.” Indeed he was right. A perfect gift for a minimalist. Even better? It wasn’t purchased. It was among the items left behind by pilgrims wanting to lighten their load. Recycling at its finest.

Accepting gifts has not been easy for me in recent years. Yes, I like the thought with which they are given. And I love surprises. But I’m at the stage in my life where I prefer “experiences” to “stuff.” Friends have adjusted to this:

  • Eating experiences were a popular gift for my birthday last week. Various friends took me out for dinner, ice cream, or coffee. Time catching up with friends — especially over good food — is certainly a gift.
  • Consumable gifts are excellent ideas for the minimalist: One friend gave me a candle. Burn it down, recycle the glass, and presto! It’s gone.
  • And then there was the friend who showed up with a homemade key lime pie (consumable) and a black case (a mystery!). He opened the case to reveal a flugalhorn (A what? Yes, that’s what I said, too) and entertained me and my guests by playing Happy Birthday on this instrument that few of us had ever heard or seen before.

Other friends give as they normally would, but with a caveat that I love: My friend Lois will send me books she thinks I might like, always with the stipulation that I can read them or not, keep them or give them away. I believe all gifts should be given in this way: the receiver can do whatever they want with them.

My mother, years ago, said that her preferred Christmas gift is a donation to a charity. Over the years we, her five children, have:

  • gifted pigs, rabbits, bees and chickens on her behalf to Heifer International.
  • gifted smiles to children born with cleft palates through SmileTrain.
  • showed her the wonders of Kiva: she chooses a person and project to which she wants to loan our donation money, and when that person pays the loan back, my mother gets to donate that money to a new person and project.

Despite all these alternatives, there are definitely occasions where some people feel they must bring a physical gift. Birthday parties are one such occasion. To accommodate the schedules of busy friends (and just because I could) I had not one, but two birthday celebrations last week. And for those that just felt they couldn’t come empty handed, I offered an alternative: open your pantry and bring me a couple non-perishables that I can give to the food bank. I sent out the “most-wanted” list our local food bank publishes. And last week I was gifted with tuna fish, beans, canned tomatoes, mac and cheese, cereal, and canned veggies — all of which I dropped off at the food bank today.

So in this season of gratitude and giving, I give thanks for givers of all kinds. But especially for those that give unconditionally, for those that give experiences and for those that give to those most in need.

What alternative giving ideas have you given or received? 

P.S. Don’t forget to enter Busted Halo’s Airing Your Attitude of Gratitude Thanksgiving writing contest! You can share with the writers and readers of Busted Halo your story of gratitude. Good Luck!

The Author : Rebecca Gallo
Since 2012, Rebecca Gallo has walked the Camino de Santiago three times -- twice on a strict budget, and a third time traveling a little more luxuriously (private rooms with sheets instead of hostels with a sleeping bag). She enjoyed sharing her first journey and subsequent reflections with Busted Halo readers. Other tales of her adventures can be found at RenaissanceRebecca.com.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • rock air

    Thanks, Rebecca, for your essay. Something I wanted to share: We are a family of five that has received many blessings from God, and we do not need more stuff. As my daughter Mary planned her 13th b-day party last month, we thought this was an opportunity to share our blessings. We contacted our parish St Vincent de Paul Society group and asked what they needed. Its president told us they could use gift cards from area supermarkets or stores that sell food (i.e., WalMart) so they can give them to people who are in dire need of food, diapers, toiletries, etc. My daughter asked her party guests that instead of giving her presents, to bring gift cards that would be given to St Vincent de Paul — she received several gift cards with total value of $170. We gave them to the St Vincent de Paul group, and later the president wrote me: “We received a call for help last week from a lady who was residing in hotel room, with her two daughters and 6- month-old granddaughter, to hide from her abusive boyfriend. This lady had endured several years of emotional and physical abuse. They had no money, no food, no place to go and were without hope. Thanks to Mary’s heartfelt gift, we were able to provide them help. We then put them in contact with agencies, who could further help them. We want to thank Mary for her “gift of love.””

    • Rebecca

      What a wonderful story of giving. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

  • LMastro

    Thanks for this reminder that gifts don’t have to be “stuff” and that stuff can be given away a la canned food for local food pantries.

  • Madeline Labriola

    Thanks so much for this lovely story Rebecca, I got some good ideas for Christmas gifts from your experience. I, like you, prefer to give and receive gifts that don’t add to the “trash” pile eventually. I am working on a letter to the editor and to church newsletter about avoiding toys that promote violence in any form. It seems ludicrous that we have to remind people but there are many such toys and videos promoted by tv ads and misleading packaging. Raising consciousness, as you do so beautifully, is a gift in itself. You are an inspiration. Thank you. Perhaps we will get to hug each other one day soon. For now I send you my love and blessings.
    Peace my dear friend,
    PS Happy Birthday!

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