1. I’m normally on the other end of the gift giving conundrum. People in my family still give me gifts (even when I explicitly ask them not to). Rather than hurt anyone’s feelings, I often donate the gifts to causes that can use them (like Project Beauty Share for toiletries I can’t use).

    I’ve never been in a situation where someone didn’t accept a gift, though I don’t know if everyone keeps what I’ve given them in the past. I agree with you that it’s none of my business. But, if it was a particularly heartfelt gift, like yours was, I don’t know how I would react if I heard they didn’t want it or had gotten rid of it.

    If I was the woman in your situation, I might not feel comfortable accepting a gift card because it was ‘too much’. But, that doesn’t mean she didn’t appreciate the gesture!

  2. Whymances

    I’ve been on the receiving end of an awkward gift. When we got married, there were a few family members that were very generous with their gift and I knew they were tight with money. I appreciated the generosity but was silently very uncomfortable. I couldn’t give it back as that would be insulting. So instead I’ve slowly been ‘re-gifting’ it at every opportunity. Paying for the bill if we go out to dinner, hosting them over a nice dinner, christmas gifts etc.

    • That’s really strategic. And I feel like that’s slowly and surely what my husband and I are trying to do with our parents. We will never be even for all the help they’ve given us growing up, but it’s nice to be able to treat them as much as we can now!

  3. Ack! What a toughie. I think it depends on the recipient in this case. Some people take offense to “charity” while others would be thrilled about the gift card. But hey, you did a good thing and it’s up to her if she’d like to return it.

  4. kddomingue

    It’s hard to swallow your pride and ask for help. When the hubs and I were young and broke with two small children, hand me downs were a godsend. Hand me downs, whether it be clothing or housewares or furniture , feels less like charity for some reason and more like accepting things that are just being passed along. Money or gift cards however (to me) felt like charity and would have wounded my already battered pride no matter how sweet, well meant and thoughtful the gesture was….. especially if it was from someone that I barely knew. Your gesture was very kind and very thoughtful but it may just have been more than her pride could accept.

    • Yes. I think that’s exactly it. And that is why I didn’t want to even really acknowledge it. Instead, I wanted to give us both the opportunity to save face (me more than her). I’m trying to focus on the fact that I still have a good home to send my clothes. It’s a win for both of us!

      • kddomingue

        Just letting it drop was probably the best thing to do…. everybody saves face that way. So often in our desire to reach out a helping hand, we make a misstep along the way…..been there, done that, got the t-shirt! But better to make a small misstep and learn from it than to let one misstep keep us from reaching out our hand again, amiright? I do have to say that the idea of saying “Someone gave me this $25 gift card to X and I never shop there but I can’t give it back because it would hurt her feelings….could you use it?” is inspired! I think it would only work once though. 🙂

  5. I’ve learned over a life time that you can never truly know what is going on behind someone’s eyes. They may make their position clear, but their reaction to any stimulus will be based upon their unique experiences, not ours. You can’t get lost in how others react to acts of kindness. In my opinion (and it is only that), it is not up to us to decide who is deserving of kindness, only to give it. After that, it is theirs to handle. If we err on the side of generosity (which you clearly did), we are maximizing the possibility of meeting a person’s needs. That is what matters.

    • That’s a great perspective, Oldster. I offered, and she declined. That’s absolutely her right. I feel awkward, but that’s kind of the story of my life. As you said, better to err on the side of generosity.

  6. Oof! My stomach turned for you just reading this! Definitely a tricky situation, but I think you both acted in your best interests and your neighbor just has ideals and priorities that didn’t exactly align with yours. Hoping everything comes out in the wash, and well done for gifting her and her family with hand-me-downs!


    • Ha. Thanks! I’m so awkward sometimes. OK, most of the time. I have another bag going for her family, and she wrote me a really nice note. So I think all is well!

  7. Sorry Penny, that stinks. This is what you get for being too nice 🙂 Oh well, look on the bright side. Either it blows over and they keep it and you end up happy, or they return it and you buy diapers you were going to buy anyways. No harm, no foul.

    • Sadly, it was waiting for me in my mailbox yesterday. What a weird thing to be sad about, huh? But the good news is that her family still wants clothes for the next seasons. So I’m happy to help in that way!

  8. There’s no way of knowing in this situation how the woman would react. I think you handled it beautifully and Oldster’s comment is spot on.

    I was a bit torn recently over giving a gift card to the realtors (husband and wife team) we worked with on our land purchase. They helped us for more than a year and the commission they received was under $900. We wanted to give them a $100 gift card to a restaurant near their office but I was nervous about putting them in an awkward position. Real estate regulations are strict here and technically realtors are not allowed to accept gifts. These are real above board, stand-up, folks.

    They were very happy with the gift card but I took a chance that I might offend them, or worse.

    • That is a tough call. I can see why you would want to gift them something, and I’m glad it worked out. That’s really thoughtful of you and Mr G!

  9. I once tried to give a GC to someone we knew who is waiting on disability. He demurred, and I said that Tim and I had both been in his situation and knew how tough it was. That we really wanted to do it. Never heard back. (We aren’t in regular contact with the guy, just a friend of a friend.)

    It stung a bit. We were trying to do something nice, and I honestly thought that, since TIm and I had been there ourselves, it wasn’t an insult. And he needed it. His clothes were apparently too big (he’d lost weight) but he couldn’t even afford thrift store replacements. So yeah… Ouch.

    Maybe it’s because we weren’t close friends of his, or maybe that would’ve made it worse. I honestly don’t know. But I really wish he’d taken it. Still, in the end it’s his decision, and I’ve made my peace with it. Except when I’m leaving comments on a blog, apparently.

  10. I don’t know what the tone of the email was but I hope that she understood it wasn’t intended to be any kind of insult. Given the hits they’ve taken though, now with more context, I would have suggested softening it with a smaller gift card and a throwaway line that this was a gift card to a place that you don’t shop at much so would like to rehome it with the clothes.

    With some memory searching, I can see how she might have originally reacted less openly to it. I had a hard time learning to accept gift graciously and that means I had a whole lot of awkward gift moments in the past. There was a really really weird one from my boss who wanted to give me spending money for my vacation (I returned it) and then when he gave me gift cards for my birthday and got mad when I didn’t spend it all on business clothes. It was many kinds of awkward given the power disparity. I hope she does end up coming around to letting them have it.

    • Terrible storyteller that I am, here’s more background: it was just a $25 gift card to Target that I put in a Christmas/New Year’s card. I thought the amount was thoughtful but modest (to avoid this). You’re right that I could have totally made it seem like they would be doing me a favor by taking the gift card, though. Live and learn for next time. 🙂

  11. As a person who received a lot of “charity” growing up, I was only offended by people who treated me like I was less than them. 5 year old ZJ had opinions. She largely kept them to herself, but folks can tell when they are being helped and when they are being “helped” to make the helper feel good. If you didn’t perform gratitude in the “proper” way, you would know it. (I learned how to read fussy church ladies very early for my own safety).

    For folks not used to needing help, it is hard (and sometimes impossible) to adjust to receive i – no matter how well-intended. Help that did not announce itself as loudly saves a lot of face for folks in that situation.

    • I certainly don’t think I did any of that, but we never really can know how things come across, right? I know my intent and can control my words and actions, but I can’t really do the same for anyone else’s. I thought it would work well as a holiday/New Year’s gift. But what do I know?! It also occurs to me that who knows what else they had been recently approached with, especially at that time of year. Maybe it was just too much to take in.

      All I know is that I’m really grateful that my clothes have a place to go where they will be worn. She and her family are doing me a huge favor, and I tell her that often. Honestly, it almost feels selfish because I feel like I am getting the better deal!

  12. I have given giftcards to people sort of in this situation, but they’ve always been regifted giftcards. I hate having giftcards because I always forget to use them, lose them, etc., so when I have one, even to Target, I tend to pass it along to someone else. And I say that. So far nobody has taken offense!

    (My husband has a 4 year old partially used starbucks giftcard sitting in the car. We’re just really bad at using them. Even when they’re right there in plain sight.)

    We did give money to a kid of one of our relatives once– she had to have eyelid-surgery so we sent a gift card along with a “get well soon” note. That caused a phone call from her father saying do not ever do that again because three of the other four kids, including one who had accidentally cut his hand doing something really stupid and needed stitches, were really upset that THEY didn’t get giftcards too. (The giftcard didn’t come back though!) But he still let us send books to one of his other kids.

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