Outline: A donation, a dole etc. are not gifts – nor are wedding and birthday presents true gifts – gift must reflect the tastes of the recipient – giving gifts is a complicated business – the nature of a true gift summed up.
There are gifts that are no gifts, just as there are books that are no books. A donation is not a gift. A portrait painted, a teapot presented by subscription, is not a gift. The true gift is from one to one. Furthermore, tea, sugar, and clothes are not gifts. If I bestow these conveniences on one old woman, she may regard them in that aspect; but if I bestow them on eleven others at the same time, she looks upon them as her right. By giving more I have given less. The dole is no more like the gift than charity is like live. A thousand-rupee cheque on the occasion of a marriage is not a gift; it is a transfer of property.
In fact, presents given or received on occasions like birthdays and weddings are not true gifts. In many cases, they signify not love but respect for convention. Secondly, a person receives too many presents on such an occasion. It is not within the bounds of possibility that a human being can appreciate more than, say, fifty presents at a time. As a lily blooming in winter, so is the unexpected gift. But the gift that arrives by tens and tens is a nightmare and an oppression.
A gift-to be a gift-must not be asked for. If it is asked for it ceases to be an expression of love and becomes a commercial transaction. A gift should reflect the personality and preference not only of the giver but of the recipient. If I love reading, I should not present my friend who is a sportsman with voluminous books.
It is a complicated business altogether. Three minutes of serious thinking make it impossible for anyone to give anyone anything. Yet the deed is done every year boldly and openly, and few are aware that they have undertaken a more delicate transaction than the robbery of a bank in broad daylight. A true gift, then, is a symbol of love and affection. It is spontaneous, unexpected, rare, and surprising. It need not be spectacular and expensive. In many cases, the smaller, the more insignificant the gift, the longer it is remembered. There may be many motives for keeping the Golden Rose; there can be one for keeping a rose-leaf. As an ancient writer has said, “Great grace goes with a little gift, and all the offerings of friends are precious.”