Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hierarchy of Needs: Part Two

Earlier this month, we raised the question, how do you give a gift that is truly needed, and we presented the hierarchy of needs.

In this post, we'll address the first two layers: physiological and safety needs.

Gifts that address physiological needs

At the bottom of the pyramid lie the most basic needs, the necessities without which we cannot survive for long: food, water, shelter, clothing. Someone who is deprived of these things will typically spend all available energy seeking to secure them. This is the level at which the survival instinct functions, and the other needs in the hierarchy have virtually no chance, so long as the physiological needs are pressing.

While most of our readers are unlikely to find themselves in these circumstances on a regular basis, gifts that address basic physiological needs are important. Charitable gifts often fall into this category.

Gifts that address safety needs

Think of the last time you experienced a serious shakeup and were reminded just how unpredictable life is. Perhaps you had a car wreck, you lost your job, or developed a serious illness, and suddenly you felt anything but safe. The world seemed like a dark and unstable place in which anything could (and probably would) happen.

There are any number of occasions when gifts that speak to this need may be the way to go. When a loved one is in the midst of a major life transition, you can give gifts that help them to feel safer, or reminds them that help is available when the unexpected occurs. "Safety" gifts are also appropriate for someone who has experienced an unexpected setback, such as divorce, death of a loved one, or loss of a job.

When I was 22 and moving to a sketchy (but cheap) neighborhood in a new city, my brother gave me a pepper spray keychain. Thankfully, I never had to use it, but it did remind me that I was not helpless in the face of danger. A nurse I know makes up first aid kits to give to kids in her family who go off to college. She includes a thermometer, cold medicine, band-aids, and most importantly, her phone number for medical questions. Car safety kits and prepaid calling cards for emergencies are other possibilities.

Notice that in these first two levels of need, we aren't necessarily talking about gifts for occasions, like birthdays (though graduations are perfect opportunities for safety gifts). Sometimes the best opportunity for a gift is when it's not expected, but definitely needed.

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