Have you ever gone a month without being asked to contribute to a group gift at work? In nine years of teaching, I’m almost positive I haven’t. If it isn’t a bride-to-be and her shower, it’s a new baby on the way, meal train for an ailing coworker, or a bouquet of flowers delivered to a hospital. Or worse, a funeral home. I’ve watched many an invitation flutter its way into the recycle bin inside our mailroom. And I have a simple tactic that saves me much thought and deliberation every time I cross paths with one: give to everyone.
Not begrudgingly, either. Instead, I whip out my checkbook with gusto. After I smile to myself over the fact that I am probably the sole reason the requests even mention the possibility of writing out a check, I seal up my contribution and scrawl a note of thanks on the outside for the organizer. Truth be told, sometimes I even give above the suggested amount.
And here’s the kicker. I start every school year with an optional $50 donation to our school’s fund that is in charge of sending get-well wishes and sympathies. So all those other meals I make or $10 and $20 checks that I stuff into mailboxes are icing on the cake.*
*Note: sometimes the donations are used to purchase actual cake. Which I support wholeheartedly. An ongoing cake fund. Why doesn’t someone look into that?
I realize some of you are shaking your heads. A handful of you may well be on your way to the comments section to tell me how I’m frittering away more money. But don’t you worry. It gets worse.
I give to close friends. I give to people who I’ve collaborated with on various teams and committees. I give to people I barely know. I give to people I don’t always get along with.
A lot of times, I can’t actually attend the showers or retirement parties due to the after-school events I sponsor. So I contribute to a gift, and I’m not even sure the gift-giver even knows I gave. Usually, a group thank-you card with show up in the lounge. Sometimes with a plate of cookies. Once in a blue moon, an individualized thank you note or email will turn up. But most of them time, I suspect that this is one exercise for which I’ll never get any credit.
Why the zest over the thanklessness? Why do I give so recklessly? Because I can. And I should. And–I really can’t stress this part enough–I want to.
And this goes beyond my hope that people would return the favor. It’s true that my coworkers threw a lovely wedding shower for us, and they gifted very generously from our registry. Should I suffer a loss or struggle with my health, I’d want to know they cared — whether in the form of a call, a card, or a lovely, albeit overpriced, bouquet of flowers.
In nearly a decade of work across two different school districts, I’ve watched coworkers struggle with family issues and battle cancer. I’ve watched people come back to work after losing a sister or a mother totally unexpectedly. I’ve watched coworkers heartily agree to foster children only to have their hearts broken. This isn’t just a hypothetical issue of the shoe being on the other foot. I never want to wear any of these shoes. Ever.
Instead, I want to show people that I care. Of course, I can and do use my words and actions. But I’m not opposed to gifts, either. And while I don’t think stuff in-and-of-itself makes anyone happier, I also don’t think I’m making anyone less happy with my contribution to a meal train, an Edible Arrangement, or a baby bathtub. And if I am, well, I guess that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
So Tell Me…What’s your policy on group gifts?
More thoughts on giving: