On second hand...


I recently read an article that advised people hoping to purchase Christmas gifts online to find a plan B. Due to the pandemic, the global courier system is overwhelmed and experiencing unprecedented challenges and delays.

Many will also advise local Christmas shoppers to find a plan B, considering that consumption-crazy crowds and covid won’t mix well in physical places.

Quite often, throughout the year, I take items (in good condition) that I have not used in ages or which I no longer want or need and give them to people I know who will enjoy or benefit from them.

In pre-covid times, when we used to have in-person yoga classes, I would often wrap small personal items that I knew my yoga students would like (books, CDs, incense, candles, etc.) and give them out at the end of a session. Participants would always be happy with whatever they received. Who doesn’t enjoy the feeling of unwrapping gifts and having an unexpected Christmas or birthday feeling in an out-of-the-blue moment?

Had those "second-hand" or "gently used" items been wrapped up and given as Christmas gifts, however, some people might be offended. Gifts given on special occasions are traditionally expected to be purchased...the more expensive the better, in some cases. Some people who do not subscribe to the “thought that matters” concept might find low-cost gifts to be an insult. A second-hand gift may therefore be considered an abomination.

Technically, what is wrong with receiving a second-hand gift at Christmas, especially if it is in good condition and is accompanied by a warm card or note?

"Dear X, for ages I’ve heard you saying that you wish you could afford to buy a blender so that you can make smoothies on mornings after exercising. I happened to have this extra one that has barely been used and works like new. I would love you to have it. I’ve included some printouts of great smoothie recipes that I found online. Enjoy! Merry Christmas!"

Would you be upset or feel insulted if you were the recipient? Would you grumble and say that the person should have gone out and bought you a blender instead of palming off “that old thing”? Or would your heart be warmed by the note, the thoughtfulness and generosity of the individual and the fact that he/she took time to look up and print out smoothie recipes to encourage and support you on your health journey?

What if someone, knowing that you are a voracious reader, took time to sort through his/her favourite books and select ones that he/she knew you would really enjoy or find useful? If they were wrapped beautifully and presented to you for Christmas, you would no doubt be able to feel through the packaging that the gift is books. Excited about the prospect of lazing in a hammock or lounging in bed reading new material over "the holidays," you would long to tear off the paper. Upon doing so and seeing that the books are not brand new, would you feel affronted?


Would it make a difference if the giver had written a lovely note/card to go with it?

"Dear X, these books are from my treasured collection. Ordinarily I would not part with them, but you are special. I know you will value them as much as I have. I’ve selected these titles for you, knowing that you will enjoy every one of them. Merry Christmas!”

Maybe the giver would include a bookmark or a small clip-on reading light.

While some may understand, appreciate and be inspired by the reduce-reuse-recycle gifting approach and understand that the giver is saving money in challenging times and/or finding meaningful ways of avoiding the covid Christmas consumer crowds, some might say: “How could X give me second-hand books? Doesn’t he/she know about ordering e-books or online gift vouchers?"

There are people who have experienced job loss and may not be able to afford to buy even "cheap" gifts, or don’t have time, material or ability to produce hand-made gift items... but still want to give tangible presents to friends and family.

“I can’t give physical gifts this year because I don’t have money,” some may say, “but on second hand..."

Whether handmade or pre-owned and in good condition, once a tangible gift is given with sincerity, thoughtfulness and love, isn’t that what matters?


"On second hand…"

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