Susan Steen

Susan Steen

“So you're a little weird? Work it! A little different? Own it! Better to be a nerd than one of the herd!” —Mandy Hale

Wrapping a gift recently, I was frustrated that the box wasn’t quite the right size for my item. I looked up “creative ways to wrap a gift,” and there were many suggestions. As I looked at the beautiful photos, though, I saw myself, and it explained a lot.

I’ve always thought gifts looked beautiful – especially under the tree at the holidays, or in department stores as the shopper is beckoned to purchase whatever will go inside. Everything is so beautifully contained, and I’ve spent my whole life trying to fit inside the neatly wrapped boxes. I wonder how many others have felt that same struggle.

Gift bags allow a little room to stretch out in one direction – top of the bag – and just cover the insides with some soft tissue paper until it’s time for the recipient to see what’s inside, but still the container doesn’t allow for much wiggle room. Years ago, I discovered cellophane. It was the greatest giftwrapping approach I had found, and I purchased a roll big enough I might never use it up in my lifetime. I loved that no matter the gift, I could cover it with this clear wrapping, carefully position the tissue paper to still conceal the gift itself and gather it all together to tie a ribbon or string or piece of yarn to keep it contained.

Can you picture yourself as the gift that’s inside the box, bag or cellophane?

There are a few lessons that I hope will stay with us as we go into the day:

• You and I are gifts. For someone to know you, they have to know how to untie the ribbon and remove the wrapping. You are that special. And for someone to get to know you, they should be as excited about knowing you as they are about retrieving what lies beneath the wrapping of a package.

• You and I are gifts. It might take a really big box to contain us until we are unwrapped, or it might take a roll of cellophane to give us a little cover without defining our size, shape and color. Those things about us should describe the wrapping, not the other way around.

• You and I are gifts. That also means every other person we meet is a gift, too. 

The boxes with the paper neatly covering, smooth corners, not too much tape might look attractive and even alluring sitting beneath a tree or stacked neatly on a table, but sometimes gifts need more space. Maybe they feel like they are being stuffed into a box, when they’d be grateful for the space at the top of a bag, or maybe they, too, need a roll of cellophane to cover but not contain them.

If we think of people as gifts, it makes more sense that we don’t know everything about a person right away. I might be able to untie the ribbon, but getting through all the scotch tape is going to take some effort. Some people don’t see themselves as gifts to be treasured, and they might put it all out there for everyone they meet – as if they’ll save you the trouble of having to not rip the paper.

And then there’s the biggest risk – what if someone unwraps the packaging only to find that sweater Grandma gave that is too scratchy, too large and leaves everyone wondering why anyone ever thought that would be a good gift? What if I’m that gift? What if I am relegated to the drawer of items to be regifted? The fear of this ending keeps many of us from ever allowing anyone to remove the wrapping paper, and we stay in a box because it draws less attention.

We aren't only gifts; we are gifters. There are several categories of gifters, it seems, and I wonder how the type of gift you are might describe the type of gift giver you are. Several years ago, a study was conducted with eBay shoppers to look at the types of shoppers out there. Here are the categories they presented in which people fall – emotional gifter, convenience gifter, practical gifter and last-minute gifter.

• Emotional gifter – 42% of the people fell into this category, loving to gift give. They enjoy looking for the perfect gift for others - wrapping and writing a note they think will be just right for the recipient.

• Convenience gifter – 16% saw themselves as these one-stop shoppers who just want to get it out of the way.

• Practical gifter – 21% fall into this category, opting often for gift cards, which often go unused, so you're basically throwing your money to the store, not the person.

• Last-minute gifter – 13% of the shoppers fit this category. When you shop last minute, you tend to overspend. Overspenders who wait till the last minute sounds like a definite category of people.

It seems 8% of those asked didn't fall into a particular category. Who are you, as the gift and the gifter? And then there's the recipient, which we'll research for another day.

Who am I? I am the person who thinks about the recipient and about the creator of the gift. I am drawn to the cookies created by my friend Emily, the copper candles hammered by women in Iraq and the hats and scarves made by Miriam in Ireland because I know the people on the creating end are people I want to support. I opt for gifts from a local store but will purchase necessities for myself as cheaply as possible.

I'm not sure what it says about me, but I know I love supporting and giving to people I think are beautiful souls in this world. I reflect back on Mandy's words in the opening quote – I'm a little weird, I'm a little different, and I'm happy today being the nerd instead of one of the herd. Maybe you will be, too.

Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University who lives in Murfreesboro. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Sometimes, she matches her words and pictures. Always, she writes from her heart with the hope of speaking to the hearts of others.

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