A few days ago I was browsing the local Canadian Tire (hardware store). They have household goods, garden/BBQ, small power tools, auto parts & services, and home improvement stuff. Camping stuff. And kitchenwares, which is a personal favorite. I love gadgets, as does my husband, and at certain times in our lives we've declared a moratorium on gadgets because of limited storage space.

The kitchenwares section is where I spied a beautiful metal funnel - the wide mouth kind for filling mason jars. It was perfect, but I didn’t buy it. Why? Allow me to explain.

I didn’t buy it because it seemed extravagant. Price tag? $10 for this little item. $10 for something that would make a messy kitchen task easier. My inner voice told me that $10 was too much, not because I couldn't afford it but because my brain deems this as unnecessary.

As I ground coffee I was reminded of this when I took out the plastic funnel I use to guide the coffee into its holding place. This funnel once had a narrow neck until I cut it off. My first (unsatisfactory) effort involved a kitchen knife. Months later I tried again more carefully, smoothing the cuts from that first effort. I thought again about the shiny metal funnel, deciding that “I’ll put it on my Christmas list!” I thought about that; why not just buy it? How did I get here?

When I was young I couldn’t understand why older folks seemed happy to get household items. They were thrilled about kitchen items, tools, socks, but why? Now that I'm older I finally understand, and it's entwined with life in ways I've only recently realized.

I grew up in a low-income home. We had days where there was no food. I can remember my grandparents showing up with groceries. There were days where eating was an adventure. Peanut butter on a spoon seems like a treat when you don't know it's the only food in the house. A half-dozen cupcakes stands in for a birthday cake. Growing out of your shoes feels like an affront to the household budget.

As a young adult I had the same limited budget and I seldom could afford little conveniences. At first it was because I couldn't afford it; later, it was a habit.

What does this have to do with gifts, you wonder? Plenty.

There's a lot to unpack in gift-giving. I used see gifts as a reflection on how much I was valued. The idea of household items as gifts didn’t convey that I was valued. And in the narrow view of a young person, I was convinced that everyone should feel this way.

Life brings lessons, and insight has unfolded some new perspectives for me. I can see a gift as something that recognizes and responds to a need: a way to say “I see you”. At times a gift brings delight. And a gift can carry the message that we are worthy.

Cooking is something I love; surely asking for a funnel is a gift to myself simply by speaking it. Something that will make me enjoy the kitchen more? Yes please!

Useful gadgets, small comforts, seemingly mundane things can be thoughtful and personal gift. It's an incredible feeling to give a gift that says "I see you. I see your need, your desire, your life."