In Praise of Regifting

Regifting gets a bad “wrap”—sorry for the terrible pun! During this season when we spend a lot of time and energy thinking about, shopping for, and purchasing presents, I think this practice deserves to be reconsidered. Sure, regifting can be a cheap and relatively thoughtless way of keeping up social conventions, but it doesn’t have to be.

St. Therese of Lisieux tried to do small things with great love. Regifting can be one way of doing just that. What if you gave away a gift you received that you really liked instead of the sweater that doesn’t fit or the Chia Pet from your cousin? If someone admires that new shirt or the hardcover bestseller you unwrap on Christmas morning, give it to them—right then and there! As St. Theresa of Calcutta said, “It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”

Regifting can be a conscious decision to care for our Common Home—abundant yet fragile—as Pope Francis called us to do in Laudato Si. Instead of buying another plastic knickknack to fill a stocking, can you let go of something you already have as a gift to the planet and the factory workers of the world?

Passing on the gifts we’re given isn’t a new idea. While we don’t consciously acknowledge it most of the time, especially in our consumer-driven, capitalist society, we live within the radical “gift economy” of our loving God. Think about our Eucharistic prayers. We ask God to accept the gifts we bring, taken from God’s storehouse and returned back to God in a never-ending flow of giving and receiving.

In fact, everything in the world—including all that we have ever had or will ever have—comes from our endlessly generous God. We are only temporary caretakers of God’s gifts to us. Our possessions are only “ours” for a short time, and they will become someone else’s when we’re gone. We can’t “create” anything without the raw materials, inspiration, time and talents God lovingly provides. What freedom this realization brings! Possessiveness, grasping, and greed are exposed not only as illogical and silly, but sinful—keeping us from following God’s example. According to St. Nicholas (yes, THAT St. Nick!), “The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic God’s giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”

As they say in 12-step programs, we can only keep what we freely give away. This is the gospel message of the circular path of death and rebirth that Jesus walked. We can trust that participating in this dynamic cycle of giving is God’s pattern for the universe. So, pass on that gift!

Merry Christmas!

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