The Gift Escape Hatch
I have noticed that there exists a tradition where If someone is sick, or is injured, or retires, or moves jobs, etc.,at a place of work, someone on staff starts a collection in order to buy the person in question a gift. A card of well wishes or condolences makes its round, and colleagues adorn it with messages of hope or support, in order to let the person know that they are on their mind.
At face value, this seems to be a wonderful generous way of showing belonging and care. How lovely, to let someone know how you feel about them, and that they are in your thoughts.
Here's the rub...
I have been working where I do for the last 7 years. During this time, I have become well acquainted with the office politics that exist; right down to who hates who, who doesn't speak to who, who uses every chance they get to badmouth who. Yet every time that a card goes out, or that an envelope gets passed around, the card gets signed, the envelope filled by these same people. The person, who the week before, was lambasting a colleague, is now sending get well wishes or congratulations. That person, who does not speak to the woman in the office across the hallway, is stuffing a 5 dollar bill into the envelope.
Why is it that we think that a card or a basket of fruit is "the right thing to do" ?
Can we buy our way into civility?
How about treating the person right in the first place? How about being genuinely concerned, so much so that you show them support or companionship in person?
Where is my rant coming from?
I was asked this week to put some money into a fund to buy a gift basket for someone who was on medical leave due to knee surgery. Now, as you know, I'm on a year of mindfulness, where Angus and I have decided to buy only what is truly necessary. When I explained my position to the person holding the envelope, who, by the way, normally dismisses the colleague in question, I was told that I was being self-absorbed and that it was "the right thing to do."
I'm sorry, but I disagree. The conversations I've had, the support we've shared, the jokes we've giggled at, the concern the colleague in question and I have shown each other is far more "the right thing to do."
You can't buy your way out of your responsibility to be a decent human being.