It’s the thought that counts?

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(When it comes to gift giving) Is it the thought that counts?

I could think of buying someone fried chicken but if I didn’t actually buy them any, there might be something wrong with me. (Of course, I might not’ve brought anought cash with me or the local KFC might be closed but I’ll take account of those things later.) In this way, I think that saying, “It’s the thought that counts,” is a bit of a cop-out.

When it comes to gift giving, I guess the general point is to give something they want or like. I can’t claim to have a mountain of life experience but I can imagine something like this happening: People are capable of giving inconsiderate presents based on lazy assumptions.

I think that a present can represent how well you know a person. When you give them a present that they like, it’s not so much that they like the present as much as it is that they like how you’ve shown that you know them. And knowing them is the result having spent active time with them, not only being around them but paying attention to them. (I apologize for getting right to my point. I was suddenly inspired on a bus ride to the library and I figured sitting down at one of the computers there would be faster than penning my thoughts into my tiny notebook.)

When someone says, “It’s the thought that counts,” I don’t believe it’s a total scapegoat, though I can imagine how it can be used as one (as shown above). But I don’t think the statement is entirely accurate, then, if it can be legitimate or not. And it can be very legitimate. For example, I might go to the chicken store and find that their debit machine is broken, or that they’re closed for the day because I took too long at the library. (Hasn’t happened yet but who knows how long it’ll take me to write this thing.) In situations like that, I don’t think it’s the thought of buying chicken has any value. What has value in that situation is the effort I exerted to acquire some fried chicken. Though I may think of buying chicken, unless I take action towards it, it’s practically useless. (Practically.)

So if we all agree that we want to get our friends and family presents that they like in order to demonstrate our love for them, and that getting to know them is part of loving them, and we’ll only know what to get them if we know what they like, then we shouldn’t just [i]think[/i] of getting them something they’ll like. We should make an effort. If you’re not sure what to get someone, then spend some time with them, even just a day.

Semi-digression: Why is it that we strive to keep our presents secret until the day they’re to be opened? I can see how it might make for more “legitimate” presents: If you ask someone what they want, they’d know what to expect from you on their birthday. You’ve gotta make a prediction, read their mind. Or uh, you have to know them to an extent ._____. Gift giving is kinda like a joke: they’re only funny when the punchline is true. In the same way… Gifts are best when they show the reality of who the reciever is?

I was wondering if asking a person what they want is a legitimate way to circumvent the fallacy of saying “It’s the thought that counts.” And if you agree with the rest of what’s above this, I think it’s safe to say that it’s not. If the goal is to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the reciever gained through spending time with them, then knowledge gained through [i]just asking[/i] is not the right kind of knowledge. Same destination, wrong route. And it’s the route that counts.

Based on this article, I might seem to be the most naive person on the Internet. Or maybe you’re as idealistic as I am and you already believe all this, in which case, I hope it’s been a good reminder. Either way, I hope you can take something from it. But seriously, you can’t just say you’ll buy someone chicken and come back empty handed without a good excuse. Try or don’t say you did. Don’t lie to yourself and to other people, it’s tacky. It’s obvious. If a person is mature, it might even be more flattering to them if you just admit that you don’t know them that well, but you want to.

It might feel bad to admit that you’re not accomplishing what you wish you were, but in the words of some comedian who was on that Conan O’Brien show, whose name I forgot, if you save yourself from the risk of great sorrow, great loneliness, you might never experience anything greater than “getting by”. You’ll be stuck in the middle, never really bothered but never really alive. And I guess it’s scary to take that risk but… It’s a fear that can be conquered by knowing that you can do something about that loneliness.

Weird tangent that I’ve gone off on but I promise I’ll finish soon. Believing that your decisions have been predetermined, that your surroundings control you, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, if you believe that you can’t change, then you won’t. But all it takes is a change of perspective to be a little more fearless. Focus on what you [i]can[/i] do in any given situation and you’ll find yourself able to do more.

Time for chicken.

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2 thoughts on “It’s the thought that counts?

  1. No, no, no – that’s not the meaning of that phrase (or at least it didn’t used to be).

    It’s not THAT you thought of [whatever] that counts — it’s the thought you put INTO how you DO what you do about it. Then, no matter how it actually turns outs “it’s the thought that counts.”

    There’s a big difference between saying you’ll get chicken and blowing it off somehow and actually jumping through hoops to get that chicken and still returning empty handed (i.e., the road was closed, you had to stop for gas to travel further than expected, by the time you went another way the shop had closed, a second shop was out of chicken, the third place was closing as you arrived – etc.).

    THEN it *is* “the thought that counts” – even if you return with fast-food burgers instead!

    RE: upcoming Christmas presents – maybe your honey is crazy about a certain car. No WAY you could afford to buy the car, but you could find a teeny version & turn it into an ornament for the tree, or locate a “build your own working miniature” at a hobby shop, etc. Whether he actually LIKES the darned thing or not, you have to admit “it’s the thought that counts!”
    ~~~~~
    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CMC, SCAC, MCC
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    (blogs: ADDandSoMuchMore, ADDerWorld & ethosconsultancynz – dot com)
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

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