Nick Offerman Says, Make Your Own Darn Gift

A gentleman craftsman builds the case for giving without buying.

wood log and card
Dan Winters for Reader’s Digest

The vast majority of our nation’s people can buy pretty much anything they need. Not anything they want, necessarily, but anything they need to achieve a satisfactory degree of creature comfort: clothing, water, shoes, shelter, food. Beer, throwing stars, charcoal, Doritos, iPhone apps. The staples.

Once upon a time for me, a Michael Pollan book would have been the prize of my year, were I to find it waiting under my Christmas tree or unwrap it upon my birthday. Now I can preorder from Amazon before the ink is even dry on the pages there in the book machine. I also used to thrill at receiving necessary items as presents, like simple socks or work gloves. Nowadays I have too many gloves. I purchase leather gloves online that appear to be a good deal or just because I like their look. Their nice cut. Well-shaped fingers. Add to Shopping Cart. Click to Complete Order. Here they come.

Prosperity is a good thing, right? Having too many gloves is a state of affairs preferable to working one’s hands raw, yes? Absolutely. But for me, “too many gloves” is symptomatic of a larger deficit that I don’t feel good about. Because I find that the greater ease with which such bounty is purchased, the less significance it has when given. This is why I try harder at gifts.

My first line of offense is simply understanding the impact of a little time spent. Even writing out a thoughtful or funny card goes a lot further than a “cute top” purchased from that popular garment-shopping website.

Need help? Go to your printer. There’s paper in there. Fold one sheet in half and draw a heart on the front. Open it up and write I love you on the inside. Sign your name. You will get kissed — big time.

You want the bonus round? Fill the card with a poem or a joke or a few verses of your own. Not only is it apparent that you took the time to select your words and commit them to paper, but now you force the reader to pause in his or her rhythm and consider what you were trying to accomplish with them. That transaction between the two of you is the gift.

Once you’ve mastered the card, take it up a notch to handmade gifts. Don’t have the budget to take up woodworking or chandlery? Step up to some tasty papier-mâché. You make just enough of a mess to know you’ve achieved something. Making gifts is also a great way to perpetuate a hobby in a productive way, and a solid hobby can keep you out of your significant other’s hair. What do you know? That’s another gift!

No matter how you decide to spend a little more time on your gesture of giving, the point is just quite simply that you do. You don’t have to give a person a papier-mâché canoe to get a reaction. But you won’t be sorry if you do.

Popular Videos

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Nick Offerman
Nick Offerman is a woodworker and an actor best known for playing Ron Swanson on NBC's Parks and Recreation.