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The Meaning of Giving
31 December 2021

Beyond physical presents, gift giving also means showing appreciation and connecting with the recipient.

By Paul Bashyam, HCA Medical Social Worker

“Endemic”, “Vaccinated Travel Lanes”, “Omicron”, these are words that I keep hearing all too much recently. Just like 2020, 2021 went by in a swoosh and here we are now, living in December 2021. As I wait at the polyclinic for my wife to bring my infant son for his bimonthly medical check-up – because only one parent is allowed to accompany the child – I can’t help but notice the conversations of the people in the waiting area.

They all revolve around the festive holiday – from making use of the Vaccinated Travel Lanes arrangement, to buying presents and getting the best deals for the 12.12 sale on a popular e-commerce app. All this made me wonder: what is the meaning behind giving? Is it about the presents, or the thought behind it, reminding us that we are not forgotten?

A Final Gift

This reminds me of Mr Bob*, a patient suffering from end-stage cancer. He was not always the most outstanding person in his life – having turned his back on his family, he had been living as a hoodlum. But upon finding out about his diagnosis, he decided that enough was enough.

Mr Bob resolved to turn over a new leaf and decided to reach out to his estranged family and make amends for his behaviour. In his final days, he was admitted to the hospital. At the hospital, Mr Bob made a request to have a bank staff visit him, in order to have his entire life savings of $400 withdrawn and given to his son. Though this amount may appear small, it was everything he had. Mr Bob simply wanted to help his son, who was not doing well financially.  

Sharing Appreciation

Whether we give from the abundance of our heart or from the little we have, we can give someone more than a physical gift from the store – through our giving, it is also a reminder that we are all connected through our struggles and joys of life. This reminds me of a quote from one of my wife’s favourite Christmas movies, The Grinch: “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store”.

Maybe giving isn’t simply about buying something from the store or online sites, perhaps it means something more. As my colleague Adeline recently reminded me: sharing a gift is a way to appreciate the person and the year; we do not need a reason to give someone a gift. So don’t stop giving – no matter how small, it still counts.

*not his real name