Monday, August 22, 2005
Know what you want
I think one of the most difficult tasks I have encountered in the journey to simplicity is trying to discern what I want. What I really want. It seems easy enough, doesn't it? It should be. But as I mentioned before, companies spend billions of dollars a year in advertising, trying to convince me that what I want is what they've got. Friends and acquaintances can influence me. And (I hate to admit it) sometimes I want to just "buy something" because I had a bad day, and darn it, I deserve it, whatever it is.
If I ever wanted to follow in my dad's footsteps, it is in this area. Daddy was very sure of what he wanted and what his priorities were. Every year a few weeks before his birthday, September 1, I would try to figure out something creative to give him, not the same old stuff. And every year, he would ask for the same old stuff. "You know what I want," he would say, with twinkle in his eye. "Ties, page protectors, and cashews." What a puny list!
And how did he come up with the (to me) boring "Big Three"?
In my opinion neckties have been maligned as one of the most unimaginative gifts ever. The kind of gift a man opens and says, "Uh...yes, thanks...I guess." Not Daddy. He was required to wear ties at his job at the bank, and he rarely bought any for himself, so he really wanted ties. No kidding!
Also one of his hobbies was writing letters and in the course of that, he received many letters in return. Some were from famous people; others were from people who were not generally known. Bishop or paper carrier - it didn't matter to Daddy. Each letter was precious to him and he kept them all in notebooks, each letter gently slid into one of those plastic page protectors. The protectors were fragile and sometimes needed to be replaced, but mostly he wanted more because he had so many more letters to document and save.
Then there are the cashews. The nirvana of nuts. Now me, if I want some cashews, I'll pick up a can at the grocery store. Not Daddy. They were expensive, and he did not spend that kind of money on himself. He was wholly dependent on his family to provide him with a can of the delectable snack whenever gift-giving time rolled around. The rest of the year he was content to enjoy Seessel's butter pecan ice cream and Aunt Bessie's peanut brittle. But his delicious cashews were a joy for him to receive. They were one of the "big three" on his list.
Well, being stuck with a wish list from him that short just made me frustrated. I usually made him a card, but I still felt a letdown when the gift that accompanied a creative homemade card was one or two of the "big three." Ties, page protectors, and cashews. But do you know what? Daddy didn't feel the need to beat around the bush. He knew exactly what he wanted. And it was worth it to see his eyes light up when he opened another tie, another box of page protectors, and one more can of cashews.
I hope we all can learn from my dad. Don't waste money, don't accumulate a lot of things you really don't care about. When you are the gift giver, find out what someone truly wants, even it sounds dull to you. And if you are the lucky recipient, think long and hard about what is important to you. Go for your version of the ties, the page protectors, and the cashews. Your smile will be genuine and you will be one more step closer to contentment!