An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

One of the things I like most about my current ward is that the visiting teachers don’t bring little gifts—not even for Christmas or birthdays. Over the years I’ve been inundated with gifts from the dollar store. I once had visiting teachers who didn’t call or knock—they just left a plastic googah on my porch each month with a note. Another VT was a second grade teacher whose appreciation gifts from her students kept on giving—to me. Besides the usual soap, bath powder, and cologne, I received a pair of curved scissors for scrapbooking (I hate crafts) and a box of Christmas ornaments stamped with a date from two Christmases before from this good sister. At least I didn’t get a box of stale cookies or chocolates.

But it’s not really receiving tacky gifts that turns me off—it’s having to think up gifts that don’t look born of desperation and obligation for my own visits. It wasn’t so difficult several years ago when I didn’t mind baking. Homemade bread and cookies are generally welcome. But age has forced George and me to adopt a healthy diet and making candy, cookies, breads, or cheese balls is too much temptation for weaklings like us to deal with.

So, I’m grateful that “thoughtful gifts” are not part of our ward’s visiting teaching routine. Our neighbors do bring over treats at Christmas and I love the fact that their kids are involved in the spirit of giving—one family even carols while delivering goodies. I’ve thought about reciprocating. I could wrap cans of Stephens’ cocoa mix to deliver, but that smacks of obligatory giving. I’ve finally decided to return our neighbors’ kindness with a personally delivered “Thank you” Christmas card instead of a gift. Like the Grinch whose theft let the Whos discover that Christmas is more than gifts, I’m allowing my neighbors to experience the joy of giving without expecting a gift in return.

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