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Redditgifts: Why I Send Presents to Strangers

Redditgifts: Why I Send Presents to Strangers

Redditgifts is a side-project of Reddit.com, started in 2009. It was originally designed to connect people on the internet through a giant Secret Santa exchange, but has grown dramatically since then. Four years ago, after reading an article about how celebrities had started joining Redditgifts, I became intrigued. You see, I had participated in pen pal exchanges before; I’ve got quite  collection of postcards from random people all over the world. However, sending gifts instead of just postcards sounded like a whole lot more fun.

(Secretly, I also hoped to be paired with someone awesome like Steven Colbert.  I mean, look at him!  He just sort of radiates ‘YAY!!!’ to me.)

colbertImage Credit: Stephen Colbert

The program is free and works like this: you choose a gift exchange to sign up for and fill out a short questionnaire to give your gifter an idea of what you like. Each exchange has a different theme, such as Dr.Who, My Little Pony, or Pets, and occasionally there will also be charity exchanges where you’ll buy a gift for someone in need without getting a gift back. After signing up you will receive information on who you are sending a present to. Then, all you have to do is buy (or make!) a present and send it out. When you receive your own package, Redditgifts asks that you post a little thank-you to your gift-giver in the dedicated Redditgifts gallery. This post serves as proof that your package arrived, and also provides good feels for the person who sent it to you.

For each successful exchange, you’ll earn credits which you can use to sign up for future exchanges. If you don’t fulfill your part of the exchange, then you won’t get credit and will not be able to participate next time around which keeps people from being jerks. But seriously, I’ve almost never had a bad or unsatisfying exchange.  Most folks are amazing! The gallery hosts millions of pictures of happy giftees and the presents that have been exchanged; some of the things people come up with are truly astounding. People have given everything from live lobsters, home-made beard hats, to a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas!

beard
Image Credit: Rocketbird

I have done over 70 exchanges and, thankfully, I have had some really great exchanges with people. There is a great video from TEDx of Dan McComas, creator of Redditgifts, explaining more about the program and why he thinks people love it.

For me, the reason I love giving is that it seems to bring the best out in people. For example, one of the greatest exchanges I participated in was the 2015 Dinosaur exchange. I got paired with a woman who wanted to dedicate the exchange to her son, who loved dinosaurs (because dinosaurs, obviously). She and her son contacted me before sending me a gift to express their excitement and find out more about me. I couldn’t have asked for better gifters. They were super sweet and the gift they sent was overwhelming! The package was covered in dinosaur stickers and inside was a bounty of prehistoric fun.

dinos

Image Credit: Jessica Fisher

They sent me lots of toys and models, as well as an awesome Ankylosaurus scarf and a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton necklace (Just like Felicia’s! Too cool!). They even made me a little bracelet with my name on it. I was super surprised that they had also included presents for my whole family (because, as they informed me, no one likes to be left out). For my husband, they sent a tiny handmade crossbow that shot q-tips, and my cats got a bunch of toys.

cross

Image Credit: Jessica Fisher

All the presents were amazing, but the thing that truly struck me, and the reason I continue to give regardless of the risk of not receiving, were the letters. The woman I was paired with wrote me a long letter of how her son was super excited about this exchange and how it made him so happy to be paired with someone who was proud to be a nerd. He had been bullied before and knowing that being nerdy wasn’t something to be ashamed of made him feel better. He also wrote me a letter and drew me some kick-ass dinosaurs. The effort they went through to make such a personal gift and to make me feel so appreciated was spectacular. I can only hope to do the same for my giftees in the future. As Dan McComas mentions in the video above “You can buy happiness with money, you just have to spend that money on a stranger.” For me Redditgifts represents the kindness and ingenuity of others and an opportunity to make someone’s day.

Featured Image Credit: Redditgifts

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