“In the eyes of a Buddhist, maitri is authentic and pure love. It means to feel compassion, kindness, goodwill, and love toward all human beings, equally, without any exceptions—including our partners.” wrote Elayane Youssef on Ethical Elephant.
Last year I wrote about a day of love where Valentine’s Day is not only for lovers but for everybody you love from your partner to your friends, family and yourself. This year I want to follow the Buddhist believe to share the love even further to the people who you don’t know and who might need your thoughts, love and caring. But before I dive into how you can share your love with strangers I thought to discuss why it isn’t usually done and why we should do it.
Very often we are believed and pushed to show our love for our loved ones, whether it is Valentine’s day, Christmas or Birthday, we should be gifting our loved ones. I love giving presents to my loved ones but I do have the feeling that gift-giving days are increasing each year and people who we must give presents to are increasing in numbers. Speaking with others about gift giving I’ve noticed that people put a lot of pressure on themselves for giving ever more expensive presents and Christmas presents are expected to cost a minimum of £100 for each person you are giving a gift. Making a quick calculation that would mean I should be spending approximately £2000 on gifts every Christmas, which would easily take me on 3 holidays.
Then there are, graduations, weddings and christenings, which again are wonderful celebrations, but when planning a wedding you are being told that the guests won’t enjoy the party unless you gift them with amazing souvenirs of your wedding, I start to wonder whether the wedding is for me or for the guests who get a free meal, present and a party in exchange for showing up, congratulating you and possibly bringing you a gift. Then we have leaving parties for the quick turnover staff, all the housewarming parties, great you got a new job celebrations, back from holidays gifts/souvenirs, some people gift each other on New Years (this might be a remnant from Russia where they give gifts on New Years instead of Christmas which is a deeply religious holiday), so will we be gifting the ever-expanding network of people in our lives on Halloween as well?
Is gift giving becoming the synonym of love and care, in the western countries, when we do not actually have time for the loved ones as much as we feel we should? It is shown in the movies we watch and many of us experience it. When I was a kid my dad went often on work trips and I got accustomed to getting a small gift whenever he came back, actually so accustomed that I remember asking him once when he would be going for another work trip as I was really looking forward to a gift. Those days he was away from home well over half the year. Now that I live away from my family and friends I always bring presents home, as though they would reimburse the time we’ve lost.
Gifting around the World
In other cultures, gifts are not given for birthday and there are many cultures that don’t celebrate Christmas, but rather other holidays. However, most cultures still give gifts, mostly as tokens of gratitude for being invited to a celebration or for a business deal, but sometimes for love and for care as well. The one thing I found out about the different gift-giving habits is many gifts are either money or food, and in many cultures, different items can be perceived as rude such as umbrellas or clocks in China.
Essentially gift giving is an important part of human interaction that can be especially very important in many cultures and social situations. A gift can tell another person that one really cares, although to others it can feel like an unnecessary burden as reciprocal gifts are expected almost all around the world. And some people just don’t mind gifts but rather like support or company of the gift giver more than the present, which you can read more about in the 5 love languages.
I wondered why the consumerist market is not pressuring us to give gifts to strangers and those we don’t know until I realised that they do but these gifts are masked under the word “charity” or “donations”. Occasionally these charities change the wording to “give a gift of water” or any other gift, which actually sounds like a much nicer way to put it. Why don’t we, instead of just donating money, rather give a gift? Gift giving, as we’ve learned so far, is meaningful interaction. We think about what we want to give others, what would suit them and what would make them happy. Why shouldn’t we make it meaningful when we put money into a donation for a charity or when we are doing a charitable thing? There are many people out there who do not receive gifts, who are lonely, who are poor and who, rather than receiving anonymous money, might like the human interaction with a heartwarming gift. Of course with many charities, you are not able to see how your donation or a gift is actually impacting the other person, but there are some that let you know or see this happening. Alternatively, you can be generous and gift stranger that is located closer to you.
Although giving gifts and showing love and care to those you love is something that each of us cherishes, there are people who might need it more. There are already multiple guides on what to gift to your loved ones which you can google or check some of my older gift guides, but what I recommend is giving them time and possibly give a gift to a stranger. There are some great examples of gifts you can give to those who need them.
Give Gifts To Those Who Need Them
- Why not send a loving public letter to the big companies requesting them to send Valentine’s present to the labour making the items they sell and get rich on. The present could be a bonus for working so well or items that they really need in their lives but can’t afford.
- Why not gift the gift of water to those in need.
- Why not gift necessary beauty or sanitary products to your local shelters.
- Why not gift a cup of hot drink to the homeless person on the street to warm them up on these cold days.
- Why not gift a bag of groceries to the poor neighbour, or even better give two gifts in one by inviting them for a dinner to your house to socialise with them. (make sure that you are safe though)
- Why not gift your company to the lonely elderly.
- Why not gift blood at the blood bank, or even better your bone marrow.
- Why not gift a bee with flower seeds that will bloom in the summer to give them more food.
- Why not sponsor a child in a third world country and give them a gift of a better life?
Pictures are from Pexels.
Why shouldn’t we be thinking and loving everybody on this planet on Valentine’s Day?