No love for the Herbert

“It looks like we need to bring a gift for the gift exchange tonight,” JD tells me, hours before the staff Christmas party begins.

“Ohhh… what in the world do we bring for a gift exchange at an adult party?!” And by adult party, I mean everyone in attendance, with the exception of Sean and Jess, will be older than my parents. I was already semi-apprehensive to attend a Christmas party where everyone in the room practically ensures my employment, no matter how chummy our relationship might be.

“The email suggests giving a book that we have read and enjoyed, but don’t mind getting rid of the copy.”

JD and I rush over to our bookcase which houses only about 1/8 of our beloved books and start skimming the shelves. The first shelf gives us no help, as titles by Lewis, Nouwen, Bonhoeffer, Manning, and Miller glare at us for even thinking about sparing one of them. We move to shelf number two, but only for a second because the only people in the room who would appreciate these books might be Sean and Jess, and that’s only because they already own them. The elders of our church are probably not interested in a book about relating to teen girls and boys and helping hurting kids. Shelf number three looks more promising, but still painful. Shelf number three is our literature shelf. Cummings, Hemingway, Tolkien, Milton, Keats, and Didion are cherished writers, but the reality of our situations affords us to send one away. Many of these books were purchased at the UCLA bookstore, and with each of us taking English courses, well, we’ve accumulated doubles.

“How about this one?” JD asks, pulling off a worn paperback from the shelf. “We both have copies of this one, and He’s one of our favorites.” I nod my head, “it’ll have to do for now. I can’t think of anything else we can part with.”

George Herbert’s collection of 17th century religious poems is soon wrapped in candy cane paper with a bow carefully placed on top.

“Do you think anyone will like it?” I ask JD, a little reluctant myself.

“His poems are devotional meditations – of course they’ll like it!”

“Ok.” I start getting excited, thinking about my own personal copy of Herbert poems that I purchased after finishing English 10A.

The wake up call comes hours later. Nobody with the exception of an occasional English major and 17th century literature expert would appreciate opening a book of religious 17th century poetry.  Ours was the true white elephant gift… without even intending to be!

Has anyone else brought a gift to a gift exchanging hoping it would be a hit and ended up being the white elephant of the night? If so, please let me know. JD and I spent the evening trying to convince everyone that the book was really great for meditation and reflection… I don’t think they believed us…


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