Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to Regift Without Looking Cheap

by Wenda Dottridge

You probably live on Mars if you aren't aware of the latest "save-the-planet" fad in our society's newly minted faith in world transformation. But even before regifting became the fourth "R" in the environmental trinity, it was a widely practiced dirty little secret. The environmental movement has made a virtue of passing on an unused gift to some poor unsuspecting friend or relative. In fact, this movement is so popular, it even has it's own youtube "how to" video:

I don't know about you, but somehow I'm not convinced. After all, gifts are well...precious. They don't just take money. They take thought and time and love. And maybe that's the problem. So much "gifting" lacks true sentiment. As a society we're overly generous with stuff but we're stingy with what matters most.

When my mother and aunts moved my grandparents out of the home they'd occupied for almost forty years they had a hard time convincing Grandma to give up so many of her nicknacks. To eveyrone else most of what filled their house was junk, but my grandmother could tell exactly who had given her each precious item in her small home, whether it was a spoon from one of her children's or grandchildren's world travels or a tea cosy I'd sewn for her for Christmas one year. She wasn't much of a hoarder otherwise, but she could never throw away a gift.

In order to get her moved into their new apartment, my aunts and Grandma settled on a plan. Grandma regifted most of the items to her eight children. Each one took a box of items they or their children had given to my grandparents. My beloved Grandma is gone now, but whenever I go to my mother's house, I can see the items that used to hang in my grandma's kitchen or reread years of letters and postcards from me and my siblings, many written from places all over the globe.

I received many precious gifts from my Grandma over the years, a few of them objects, but perhaps one of the sweetest is knowing how much she valued her family and our small gestures of love. To me, that is true regifting!

Her brand of "passing-it-forward" is that other kind of regifting. The eternal kind. The kind that says, "We love because he first loved us...." (1 John 4:19)

I was a Christian a long time before I learned what that meant.

As a fiction writer, I've learned a lot about developing stories around characters. Screenwriting guru Robert McKee probably says it best (although he's also probably the most long-winded) in his book, Story. He says, character is plot and plot is character. That means, the story evolves from the character's decisions and choices. The story is what the character does!

And isn't that just like life. Our lives are not what we say we want to do or who we say we want to be. Our lives are not the label we hang around our necks, the party, club, movement, or denomination we belong to. Our lives are what we do.

I have a ring, as in a piece of jewelry. (I tried to take a picture, but do you know how hard it is to photograh a ring?) It is a very ugly ring, so I don't wear it. But it sits in the top of my jewelry box and I see it every time I open the box to take out a necklace or nicer earrings for a special occasion.

This ugly ring reminds me about a kind of regifting called grace.

There is a long story behind the ring. It involves a hurt, broken woman, stolen property, lies, and then a swindle. To say I was upset and angry about the whole thing would be an understatement. But because this one time I chose to forgive as an example of Christ's forgiveness, a woman came to accept God's grace through Christ. Oh sure, I know there were others involved in her journey to faith, and there were probably many more significant moments in her struggle to accept Christ's love. She might not even remember the whole ring situation. But for me, this ugly ring reminds me that regifting grace can have eternal consequences.

I love Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. I've read the whole unabridged story (in English), including every word of the eleven page description of the fields after the Battle of Waterloo without skimming. Twice. I've read to my children the abridged version over and over. Saw the musical in London. I gave my daughter the London original cast soundtrack. For me, this is the most powerful account in literature of the gospel. Justice did not reform Jean Valjean's life. It was grace. Unmerited grace freely given, and a life of grace offered in exchange. Now that is powerful regifting.

I'm still not convinced regifting actual presents is a good idea. I think it cheapens what gift-giving is for--an expression of love in a tangible form. But I do know that there is one gift we tend to hoard that we should offer more freely. That is the gift of God's grace, of love without limits. When we learn to regift grace all the time, we'll see our lives and our world truly transformed.

Images courtesy of:


  1. I'm glad I'm not the only crazy one who waded through the whole Les Miserables! I love it! Love the musical, too. The picture of grace makes me cry every time. Not just little tears, often heaving sobs. Yes, grace is the greatest gift. Thanks for reminding me of that this morning, Wenda!

  2. I've only seen Les Miserables, not read it, but it was still very moving. Great post, Wenda I appreciate your take and the spiritual tie in. Awesome.

  3. Good Morning D'Ann and Lisa,

    See D'Ann, the twins separated at birth still applies! I even sewed a little case for my copy of Les Mis because the paperback was so big it would be easily damaged in a backpack or purse. How's that for crazy.

    And Lisa, I highly recommend you read Les Mis in its entirety. It isn't an undertaking for the faint of heart, but it is a rewarding experience!

  4. Loved your post, Wenda. Believe it or not I have never read or seen Les Mis. I remember a friend of mind reading it on the beach one summer a long time ago and thinking "That is one big book."It will have to go on my Bucket List.

    And I don't like the regifting thing. The video allows us to see just how crazy it is to try and make sure you don't get confused when you regift. But I do like reusing gift bags.
    I love your thoughts on regifting grace.

  5. Hi Jill,

    The video did remind me that in some cultures gift giving is a very big deal.

    I was an exchange student to Japan and learned that gift giving there is equivalent with face, and when a Japanese person travels they not only have to save enough for the trip, they will have to save to bring thousands of dollars worth of presents back for family, friends and even coworkers. So I suppose in those circumstances regifting makes some sense.

    But still, I'm like you. I reuse gift bags, but not prezzies. Umm. Except for the one time I rewrapped a set of unopened hand lotions and bubble baths. (I react to any fragrance :-( ) I still feel guilty.

  6. I think regifting is okay if it's done in a 'here's something I don't or can't use...would you like it?'
    But I haven't done the rewrapping thing myself.

    Wenda, I love how you reminded us of the fact we don't pass on (regift) grace enough. So true. I think more of us practice forgiveness but grace not as much. Like when someone is just plain annoying or rude or careless with our feelings ...
    Forgiveness for the big things but just plain grace for the little things, too. May we all take a step closer to it today.

    Hey, today is a big announcement day for the RWA contests. I'm excited to see the results.

  7. Well done thank you for sharing
    In Christs Love

  8. My husband receives a lot of gifts from people he works with. They aren't very peronsal, and while they must make sense to middle-easterns, to me they seem pretty pointless. I do regift these sometimes so that they don't go to waste, but I usually give them out as unexpected gifts rather than presents for holidays. Like one time we had a cabinet full of unopened expensive chocolates, so we sent them to all the kids teachers.

  9. Wenda, great post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on regifting grace. And Dina, a cabinet full of unopened expensive chocolates - that scenario couldn't possibly happen at my house :-)


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