It's just about time for the annual Gift From The Universe project. I'm not quite sure of the start date yet, it has traditionally been on Black Friday, but I might start it earlier. It will end on Giving Tuesday Nov. 28th. This will be the 5th year in a row I've done it at this time. I feel like I have said this every year the past 3 years, but I feel like everyone needs this now more than ever.
Being a maker that has issues with extreme capitalism can be challenge. Of course I want to make things and have people buy them. I have bills to pay and dreams to fulfill! But being materialistic for the sake of expectation or status or obligation is not for me.
Some years it felt like fun to participate in sales or do special promotions and in no way to I judge my fellow makers or business owners that enjoy jumping in on that. (If you line up at a store and trample other people to buy a tv, yes, I totally judge you, but if you're reading this, chances are that is not you anyway) Several years ago I realized how bad it felt to me and on a whim I started a project. Without much thought or planning, I offered up prints to be sent to loved ones, anonymously, for free!
Gift giving can feel so special. When I find something that feels just right, I'm that kind of person that is desperate to give a gift early because I can't wait for them to get it. Or finds something at an off time and send it just because.
It can also feel terrible. A stressful obligation because someone else expects it. Or even that you want to give a gift to someone, but the panic and stress of the holidays takes the joy out of being able to do so thoughtfully. The last minute "fuck it, here's a gift card" that I have done so many times finally fell by the wayside because I decided I was just not going to play that game anymore and anyone close enough that expected that of me didn't know me very well anyway.
I've thought of so many scenarios that leave me feeling frustrated around this whole time of year - maybe you recognize some of these:
Buying something too expensive because the other person equates money spent to the amount of love given.
Giving something you actually think the other person might not like, but... you "had" to get them something anyway.
Wanting to give something but feeling like the other person will be obligated to give you something back... or will feel guilty when they didn't or didn't have the money or energy to give anything in return.
A broken relationship that will result in a "return to sender" envelope or package
Receiving something that you don't like at all and feel like that person didn't even try to be thoughtful or just felt that obligation to just buy something.
I am all for thoughtful and meaningful gifts and experiences. I'm all for surprising someone will a silly pointless gift because you think it will make them laugh, or you know that receiving gifts is their love language and literally getting mail will just make their day. I am all for that weird gift that makes you wonder WTF and then a few days later you're convinced it is the best present you've ever been given.
And really, none of this applies to children to whom simply opening a present is a delight. Watching a small child completely lose their shit over a single pair of socks is amazing, only later for them to realize there are more than that one pair and it's mindblowing and adorable.
So how does this all relate to this project? The idea of giving something without spending money, without taking credit or getting acknowledgement - giving something out of love without money being involved... what does that feel like? How might it expand your own heart or what might it mean to someone to receive a gift that simply tells them they are loved. No need to give a thank you or send something in return. What is it like to receive something that feels like a whisper from the Universe. Maybe they think they know who it is. Maybe they think of 10 people who might have sent it. Maybe they are right or maybe not. Some people try to guess (and often guess correctly), but some people simply feel the compassion of a random act of kindness, a mysterious moment of love and a reminder that they matter to someone and if they don't know who it is, it could be anyone.
Interesting in supporting the project financially? Read on:
The first year I did the project, I supplied everything and donated my time. I hadn't really thought about shipping, the labels and envelopes and all the extra stuff. A couple years ago I opened it up to supporters to help fund the project and had such amazing help.
If you'd like and are able to support the project more than participating and sending a print or two - you can check out the donate page.
To give an idea of costs and why even a little helps - shipping to a recipient in the US is between $4 - $5 per print. For 100 prints that adds up! Besides my time (and what would be the retail cost of the print), there is also the material cost of the paper, ink, extra gold ink for hand embellishing, shipping labels, shipping envelopes, etc. $5 covers most of the shipping, and in some cases the label and the sleeve for the print.
Why not just charge for shipping? I did one time, but prefer to ask for support to cover shipping for everyone who participates. It is easier for everyone involved for shipping to be free for everyone (in the US - many apologies to internationally shipping - maybe one year I'll get so many sponsors that will also be free!)
There will also be an opportunity to sponsor the project by purchasing the print you send. Those purchased prints don't count towards the 100 free ones that get mailed.
I'll be announcing this year's design choices next soon!
a little end note - What do I get out of this? On the surface, it does get my work out in the world, but ultimately it makes me feel like a conduit for love. Feeling loved is something I find challenging. I know if I got one of these, it would make me feel loved. It is easy for me to love and send that out to the world. Being empathic, I can also very much feel when one person loves another. Just not so much for myself. (It's something I'm working on) And in a weird way, this project helps my heart to expand and feel love in all kinds of ways.