9: A “Gift of Love”

Today, I received yet another graduation card and check in the mail, this time from my grandparents on my father’s side.  They signed the card saying it was a “gift of love.”

In life-changing celebrations such as graduations or weddings, it’s customary to send out announcements or invitations to friends and family.  Receiving money or gifts as a result of these announcements or invitations is also fairly standard.  It’s not uncommon, in fact, to receive quite a bit of money, a monetary celebration of your achievements.

I would be lying if I said I HADN’T gotten a lot of money from friends and relatives after graduating from both high school and college.  I actually have close to a fourth of the amount I’d like to have before moving to New York in the fall.  I’m entirely grateful for my relatives’ generosity.  Their gifts have given me a lot of “seed money” to start my life on the East Coast.

But allow me to ask the question: why is money a socially acceptable gift?  When did it become the “norm” to give people money instead of something more personal?  Why is money a “gift of love?”

Don’t get me wrong, I would rather people send money than buy me things I won’t use or don’t need.  My own grandmother (on my mother’s side) gave me a whole bag of knick-knacks I don’t need, but thankfully included a nice check along with it.  I would have preferred just the check.  Money can be used at your own discretion.

But is money really all that personal?  Is it really a “gift of love?”  Can we really put a price tag on love?

“Money may be the husk of many things but not the kernel.  It brings you food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; acquaintance, but not friends; servants, but not loyalty; days of joy, but not peace or happiness.” — Henrik Ibsen

I’m sure philosophers and scholars alike have debated this, but how is love measured?  (And no, that’s not a cue to start singing “Seasons of Love” from Rent)  Back a hundred or even two hundred years ago, I’d like to believe we were less preoccupied with money and more focused on expressing our love and gratitude in more personal, direct ways than handing over a fifty or hundred dollar bill.  People spent time with each other, talking, REALLY talking about their dreams and their fears.  Love wasn’t some tangible object; it was a feeling deep in your bones that you knew and accepted without expectation for some object to represent it.

I sound like I’m complaining.  I’m not.  It’s just something that fascinates me.  How do we know that we’re truly loved?  It’s not something anyone can really answer, I think.  I’m sure there are plenty of people who think love is merely manifested through “stuff” (and I’m betting most of these people are the ones who increase the divorce rate each year and have ridiculous pre-nups), but I’m a romantic at heart and believe any sort of object or monetary value can’t define love.

I’m appreciative of the gifts I’ve received, VERY appreciative.  I DO feel loved and supported, but I also know I’m just as loved by those who DIDN’T send checks or buy me gifts.

It’s just a feeling…all they gave was a gift of love.  In the long run, that might just do more for me than any check ever will.

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