your gift: a pickle waiting to happen

photo by pking Design

You are here to share your peculiar gifts with the world.

Some gifts are peculiar indeed.

Rereading The Gift, Lewis Hyde’s wonderful study of “the commerce of the creative spirit,” I was reminded of one gift in particular which truly embodied Hyde’s claim that “a gift that cannot be given away ceases to be a gift.”

One summer I was working at a program for young writers and foreign language students at my alma mater, Simon’s Rock College. One of my fellow staff members was going into town and I told her I hoped she would bring me back a snack. When she asked what I wanted I said, “I don’t know, get me something crunchy…surprise me.” She came back with a Pickle in a Pouch. If you’ve never seen one, it’s exactly what it purports to be: a large pickle encased in its very own pickle-sized plastic pouch.

We never did eat the Pickle in a Pouch. Instead, we continually re-gifted it to one another in new and increasingly creative ways. It circulated among three or four of us all summer. Sometimes it wore its own custom-made construction paper costumes; once it had a whole diorama made for it to pose in; at least once it ended up hidden under a pillow, and I also have a vague memory of it being ingeniously suspended from a dorm room ceiling. In the end, we held a burial ceremony for it and laid it finally to rest.

Hyde describes this kind of gift as a “ceremonial gift” and says, “The clear uselessness of such objects seems to make it easier for them to become vehicles for the spirit of a group.” The value of the gift was in the giving itself and in the bonds of friendship that it strengthened among those of us in that tiny crunchy circle of givers and receivers.

With each act of giving, the pickle inspired us to reach for greater and greater acts of creativity and ingenuity.

As Hyde writes, we must think of the gift “as a constantly flowing river.” Try to dam it up or horde the gift for ourselves and it goes bad. “What is kept” he writes, “feeds only once and leaves us hungry.”

Now imagine that your gift – your voice, your art, that which is uniquely yours to give to this world – is like the precious Pickle. It may not seem to have any “practical use,” yet it goes about in the world, bringing joy or introspection or maybe wondrous puzzlement and it creates a bond between giver and receiver.

Once you find your own true gifts (your art, your voice, your listening ears), you will feel the same way we did about that pickle: we could not wait to find some new and unheard of way to give it. The giving itself was a source of great joy. The opposite is also painfully true: to have something to give and no way to give it – that is one of the most excruciating things of all.

With the urge to give so energizing, it’s no wonder that thinking about how our gifts might interact with how we put food on the table might pull us up short.

Hyde offers some wonderful wisdom for thinking about making art and making a living and I am brimming with excitement to share those gifts with you in future posts.

For now, I would love to hear: What is the one gift that you are bursting with readiness to give to the world no matter what?

5 thoughts on “your gift: a pickle waiting to happen

  1. Thank you for such a wonderful post. It has come at just the right time for me. I struggle with putting my art out there in the world in case it is poorly received. But I need to gift my art to the world, in creative and imaginative ways. Kept to myself, it does not nourish. My gift is my art, and my focus must be on the giving of that art not on the receiving of any compliments.

  2. Inspiring post! I give the gift of my art shared with whomever it touches and I give to me the gift of allowing myself not to be perfect – that way I’m free to experiment and if lucky, inspire others to stretch their wings.

  3. Thanks you for this wonderful blog. I love your perspective on creativity, and how we can gift ours to others in unique and different ways. I have a new blog myself, that I hope will become a brainstorming site on the topic of creativity. Your input would be most welcome!

    Keep up the good work. Donna

  4. thank you, minna, exactly what i needed to hear. my gifts? writing and tutoring, esp figuring out the best pathways to learning for LD teens and move them from resistance to joy in learning.

  5. Thanks for this post. It took me a long time to figure out what I have to offer. After years of planning theme parties for my family (we’ve done 34!), organizing scavenger hunts for my friends’ birthdays, making up games to play on first dates, and spearheading the Social Committee at work, I realized that what I have is a talent for making things fun.

    I’m in the process of figuring out just exactly how to package this for others beyond my immediate social sphere. I wish I could put it in a diorama, but instead I’m offering custom scavenger hunt design as a first step.

    Thanks for the fresh perspective.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *