Responding to this post on gift-giving:

For me, the sweet spot for a gift is when you can use it to show that you’ve paid attention to what the person needs or cares about. Not because you want to be smug or feel good about yourself, but because as the receiver of a gift, it feels good to be seen.

Most years, I only give gifts to family, which certainly makes this easier. In recent years, I also pick an annual formula, for example, everyone gets a book or everyone gets a T-shirt.

This year, everyone got a donation to something they care about plus a token to unwrap.

  • My brother got patronage of Defunctland and a Defunctland brochure.
  • My sister got a symbolic adoption of a red panda through the World Wildlife Fund and a DVD of the Spirited Away stage show.
  • My brother-in-law got a donation to the Order of the Good Death and an occult-themed cocktail recipe book.
  • My mother got a donation to the American Cancer Society and a T-shirt with a meme she likes on it.
  • My father got a manatee adoption from the Save the Manatee club and a Jeopardy! card game.

Each of these gifts says:

  1. I noticed something that’s important to you.
  2. I noticed something you enjoy.

There’s no perfect formula for gift giving, but I find using it as an opportunity to say “I see you” is a useful principle.