The Time Hack

10 Notes

Day 358: Buy and deliver presents to a family in need

Though a 2005 report showed that four out of five Americans believe the holidays to be too materialistic, psychologists have argued that gift giving is an important ritual in maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle. But experts claim giving presents is more beneficial for the givers than for the receivers. 

If I don’t let you give me a gift, then I’m not encouraging you to think about me and think about things I like. I am preventing you from experiencing the joy of engaging in all those activities. You do people a disservice by not giving them the gift of giving,” Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer told The New York Times in 2007.

According to the article, researchers believe that evolution played a large role in why humans give gifts today. 

Men who were the most generous may have had the most reproductive success with women. (Notably, the use of food in exchange for sexual access and grooming has been documented in our closest ape relative, the chimpanzee.) Women who were skilled at giving — be it extra food or a well-fitted pelt — helped sustain the family provider as well as her children.

Further researcher was released in 2008 by the Virginia Commonwealth University showing that the benefits of gift giving may ultimately fall on the shoulders of the giver, not the receiver.

In the VCU report, experts studied the gift giving habits of pet owners, concluding that their gifts stemmed from an effort to make pets happy. Though the research may seem frivolous, the report points to the self-serving nature of gift giving - since, after all, pets are unable to give gifts in return.

For day 358 of The Time Hack, I purchased a Wal-Mart gift card and a book set for a family whose house burned down the night before Christmas Eve. Though the presents were utlimately delivered to a mother and her young daughter, I’m still not sure who benefited the most from the gifts - myself or the family.

REMEMBERED DETAILS (From both wrapping the presents to delivering them)

  1. My friend and I wrapped the presents (a Wrinkle in Time book set and a Wal-Mart gift card) in blue and white stripped wrapping paper. Red ribbon was used to 
  2. There was a debate as to what should be said in the card, which was white with a green tree on the outside cover.
  3. I erased and rewrote the closing of the card three times - simply saying “Happy Holidays, Matt” - as opposed to leaving The Time Hack’s website.
  4. We wrapped the gift card first, ultimately taping it to the top of the the book set.
  5. We knocked on a neighbor’s house and a man named Jeff answered the door in a grey sweatshirt.
  6. We hadn’t yet got a full sentence out yet when he invited us into his house. He was talking on a white cordless telephone, holding it on his right shoulder with his chin.
  7. My friend and I stood in the living room of the man’s house, which contained a two brown chairs, a tan couch and one Christmas tree.
  8. Nice as he was, Jeff was slightly unclear as to whether he would deliver the presents to the family in need.
  9. Halfway through our visit and teenager named Kyle walked into the house, saying that the family was staying at the Days Inn and that the presents would be delivered.
  10. Jeff said the town’s Sheriff, named Tom, had already delivered “money cards” to the family.


What happened on day 358? Find out here. (Video) And here. (Audio of us going into the neighbor’s house.) 


I estimate it took 1 hour and 19 minutes to purchase and deliver the Christmas presents.


How long did it take? Find out here.

Why don’t videos or images of time appear on this site?