When I was a kid, my great aunt came every Christmas, and one gift she always gave us was fruitcake. That fruitcake, even when I muster up my fondest of moments, was dry, tasteless, and — well, awful. In those days, fruitcake, for some unforgivable reason, had become the default gift. A default gift is the one you give when you can’t think of anything to give someone.
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What is your default gift?
Today’s fruitcake, as least in my experience, is the gift of a coffee mug. Now don’t get me wrong; I like coffee aplenty. And I’m not ungrateful and I don’t toss these things away — I like all the mugs I’ve got.
But mugs are piling up in my office. I use exactly one at a time; I wash the mug out once a month (or whenever Kris gets to my office). I could switch mugs daily, but that would mean cleaning the mugs daily, and that’s not really a good idea. I never drink from more than one mug. Never have. The one I’m using now is a big ol’ mug with big letters: Atlanta. The thing’s indestructible. I can see using it until I retire.
To be sure, sometimes I make a cup of coffee for someone else in my coffee, but in my 15 years of teaching at North Park University, I’ve never made more than three cups of coffee. At the max, I need three mugs — and we can add one more just in case one breaks.
But I’ve got 15 or so mugs sitting on a shelf, collecting dust and singing songs of loneliness. What am I to do? I’ve decided the best thing I can do is to inform folks that:
Mugs, like fruitcake, need to be replaced by something else as the default gift!
The best gift I’ve ever received speaking is a leather bookmark. What makes that bookmark distinctive is that, because it’s leather and the backside is a bit rough, it’s tacky and it never falls out of the book. The best gift ever.
No matter how many leather bookmarks you get, you can always use another because there’s always another book to read — and they don’t take up so much shelf space.