The Problem with Re-Gifting

Think before you re-wrap that old gift



When we lived in Cambodia, sometimes my wife and I ventured out for evening desserts.

Occasionally, we bought them from a woman who set up a table each night in the open-air market a block from our apartment.

One evening, I selected sticky rice from her selection of large bowls of colorful desserts. It was 50-cents.

I watched her spoon out a blob of sticky rice and push it into a small plastic bag with her fingers.

I thought about how her hands were quite possibly dirty, though she was simply doing what was normal in that culture.

On our short walk home, I decided to give the dessert to the security guard who sat out in front of our apartment building each night. The sticky rice just didn’t appeal to me anymore.

The security guard was happy to receive the treat. And I was pleased to give it to him.

Later, though, I thought about the whole matter.

What if the security guard thought that I had bought the dessert specifically for him?

What if he thought more highly of me because of that?

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Are you wasting your life on something that doesn’t work?



A couple of years ago, I interviewed a number of leaders from organizations in Cambodia that worked with sex workers, and women and children who had been sexually abused.

One interviewee–a highly trained westerner–had started an organization that was well-respected in the community.

Before she started her organization, she had worked for another organization that also had sought to help sex workers.

During that time, she found that, despite all that she and others did to support the young women they were serving, their efforts were not helping in a way she believed was satisfactory.

“Every single girl went back to the sex industry,” she told me.

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