Friday, December 18, 2009

Like Seinfeld's Label Maker

Today, December 18, is an official holiday in the great state of Colorado - it's National Regifting Day! Apparently everyone else in the country observes National Regifting Day on the Thursday before Christmas (you know, yesterday), but I believe it's a concept worthy of more than just a single day's consideration. The economic and environmental concerns we are currently facing grant legitimacy to this once-maligned practice. Regifting is an idea whose time has come!

According to Merriam-Webster*, to regift is "to give someone a gift that was previously received from someone else." So this Christmas, when I put a bow on those steak knives I received at my wedding nine years ago, I'll be a regifter.

The term was coined in 1995, on a Seinfeld episode* entitled The Label Maker:
(You can check it out for yourself...from the library!)

Elaine: Hey. Oh, is that a label maker?
Jerry: Yes it is. I got it as a gift, it's a Label Baby Junior.
Elaine: Love the Label Baby, baby. You know those things make great gifts, I just got one of those for Tim Whatley for Christmas.
Jerry: Tim Whatley?

Elaine: Yeah. Who sent you that one?
Jerry: One Tim Whatley!
Elaine: No, my Tim Whatley?
Jerry: The same, he sent it as a thank you for my Super Bowl tickets.
Elaine: I think this is the same one I gave him. He recycled this gift. He's a regifter! ...
... Jerry: Why'd you get him a gift anyway?
Elaine: Oh, he did some dental work for me and
he didn't charge me so I thought I'd get him a Christmas present.
Jerry: Yeah, well, if you're getting him anything for his birthday, I'm a large.

Back then, regifting seemed like a shabby and laughable practice, but it has since gained considerable popularity. Here at the library, it's an open and common practice at holiday parties. Online auctions, the economic downturn, and an expanded vision of recycling have all helped to put a positive spin on the regift phenomenon. Heck, even The Emily Post Institute now deems it to be within the standards of proper etiquette (in some instances). Of course there are websites dedicated to it. With the motto, Reduce, reuse, recycle...regift, nationalregiftingday.com promotes recycled gifts as thrifty, green, and socially acceptable. Rock out to Regifting for the Holidays by The Alice Project, and then check out ehow.com to learn how to throw a regifting party in 3 easy steps. On regiftable.com you can share your regifting stories, print regift tags, even send free (and paperless) e-cards. But if you just can't think of anyone who would want that soy candle from last year's office grab bag; or if giving of your time and talent is just more your style, you can create personalized gift certificates there too. A classy rendering of "this coupon good for one free back rub" might be just the thing to make your sweetheart smile without maxing out your credit card.

Beyond green and thrifty, and in the spirit of generosity, giving to others what has already been given to you has spiritual implications, as well. Helping someone else, be it a loved one or a stranger, has a ripple effect. As a for instance - on Monday NBC reported that a couple at a diner in Philadelphia paid for their own meal and then paid for a stranger's meal, too. They triggered an altruistic chain reaction that lasted 5 hours! Now here's my hook - each time someone new picked up the tab for another stranger, what was it but a regift?

Mixed with some random acts of kindness and a measure of the Golden Rule, I think the act of regifting can be the key to lifting your heart and nourishing your soul. When you truly give of yourself, you also give to yourself. In her book, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, Cami Walker maintains that giving to others improved her physical health, as well. Afflicted with MS and addicted to pain killers, Ms. Walker got an unusual prescription from a South African healer - give away something every day for 29 days. The gratitude and reciprocal generosity she learned from that exercise gave Cami Walker the strength to face her trials and reshape them into blessings. Her story has inspired others to take their own 29-day giving challenge, and the website 29gifts.org has given rise to quite a few not-for-profit organizations.

I admit it, though; the thought of book deals, websites and charitable enterprises intimidates me. It's a stretch from wrapping up that old wedding present. But a mindful and generative regift doesn't have to involve stirring up a grassroots movement. Regifting can be as simple as taking that smile a coworker gave you this morning and recycling it. Pass it on to the next person you meet. Happy Regifting Day!

*[regift. (2009). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved December 14, 2009, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/regift]
*[Seinfeld Episode no. 98 pc: 611, season 6, episode 11 Broadcast date: January 19, 1995]

1 comment:

Linda K. said...

I have also regifted steak knives! I mean, how many of those things can you actually use? I also regift candles. Much as we love the look, smell, and feel of wax candles, our cat is much too curious, and singed whiskers are not fun, so it's those fake LED candles or nothing for our house. As long as the item has not been used - no fair regifting a candle when the wick and wax has been burned down to a mess - why not?

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