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How to Be a Good Gift Giver

Empathy and imagination light the way 

     The perfect gift? Satisfying that standard is too heavy a burden to bear any time of the year, especially in this season dedicated to rekindling hope, faith and charity. The right gift will do just fine — if only I can find it. Actually, them — for it’s several people for whom I’m still seeking good matches. 
     Helping us all make good matches in these waning days of the season of gift seeking is our mission in this week’s paper.
      Getting this paper to you has set me pondering the secrets of good gift giving. 
     Success, I’ve decided, begins with empathy. Practically, that means, we have got to turn off the bright light of ego, which is sure to focus on goods we like. With its glare diminished, we’re more likely to see the people on our list — friends and family we presumably know pretty well, as we care enough about them to want to give them gifts — in their own light. Refocused, we have what they do and say to guide us.
     Which could lead me down the path to another unwanted gift.
      Does friend and colleague Susan, who has taken to raising chickens this year (the eggs are very good, thank you) need or want chicken art, whether rendered in metal, paint or ceramics? Probably not. So even though I find chicken pitchers hard to resist, especially Italian rooster pitchers, I’m going to save her from my impulse. Still, chicken art is a more interesting gift than chicken feed. 
     Need, as well as want, should figure in here. Dear old friend Linda would probably love The Big New Yorker Book of Cat Cartoons. Except that winnowing down, rather than bringing in, is her goal these days. So that’s another temptation I had better resist.
     At least in my gift-giving strategy, imaginative empathy has its limitations. A better guide for me is attentive listening. Having learned a friend’s favorite deli, I’ve found that giving her a gift card suits us both. She gets to sample its expensive fare more often, and I achieve the satisfaction of having made a good match.
     I am listening very carefully as our days of gift buying fly by. So I’m very glad for our Last-Minute Gift Guide, in which gift-giving gurus share their favorites. 
     People whose livelihood depends on catching our imagination stock their stores with opportunity. Like the Beach Boys, I get around. But I’ve not been to every shop and store in Chesapeake Country, and this week’s issue reminds me of what I’ve missed. 
      As I’ve already read it, my list is filling with satisfying check marks. Two — who would have thunk it — came from Chesapeake Spas, and neither was a hot tub. Just what they are is under wraps.
     I hope we inspire you this week and guide you to some swell discoveries on the way to earning that enviable holiday title of good gift giver.