Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Ever since reading about the appearance of tiny paper sculptures appearing magically in libraries throughout Edinburgh this fall, I have been thinking about the thrill of the unexpected, about how much it delights me to come across something which someone else thought – a lot! – about, and did, not for credit or recognition, but in order to delight someone else, to focus attention, to slightly alter the world. In this gift giving season, the unexpected gift seems to be on its way toward extinction, replaced with the asked-for, the gift card, the predictable.

Unexpected gifts come in all forms. This past weekend, I came across Santacon, the gathering of Santas of every type congregating throughout San Francisco. Even if one was already sick of hearing piped-in Christmas carols being relentlessly played (as I am), the sight of these Santas and elves, some of them traditional, some of them very risqué, brought huge smiles.

Far more subtle is sidewalk graffiti, with messages I sometimes understand and often do not, but which always change my walk from hurried and thoughtless to suddenly aware of being present.

And then there is the unexpected greeting. Sigh. Standard operating procedure for me upon arrival anywhere is a taxi pickup or, if I’m really lucky, a curbside pickup by a friend. Imagine being greeted, instead, with an unexpected in-person welcome, complete with hug, kiss, and a bag of peanut M&M’s (my secret vice). Talk about a priceless gift.

With our ability to search all or look up anything, I find serendipity and spontaneity to be less and less frequent occurrences, making these unexpected gifts/happenings/sightings all the more precious, and is completely affecting my gift-giving thoughts this holiday season. So if you have given me your gift list, that’s fine. But don’t necessarily expect me to have given you one. I’d much rather be surprised and delighted!

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