No, despite the practicality of the gift card concept, it lacks the authenticity and the humanity of a hand-picked gift.
No surprise or delight to be found here - nothing beyond the dollar denomination.
I think something is lost in the magical interaction of giving of a gift to a loved one, cherished friend, or colleague when that gift isn't actually a gift. And that something is really too precious to be lost.
This is the power of the gift. It is unneeded, unwanted, unanticipated, but yet it is a source of surprise and delight out of proportion to the cost of the gift itself.
Do you remember a gift of cash 20 years later, or a gift card? They are like Christmas cards that have been preprinted with the sender's name, cards that no human hand has touched to sign ink-on-paper.
These are gutted of meaning, devoid of touch and thought.
Another year it was a CD player that my brother bought me for Christmas. Again, I hadn't wanted one and I saw no use for it. Of course, I would not have bought one for myself if I had been given the amount of money it cost.
And yet, I loved that CD player and wore it and my new CDs out from over use.
Maybe the best way I can explain this is the memory of gifts long ago, both good and bad.
Many years ago my brother gave me a red down coat. I would have never bought myself such a coat. Red was too bright. Down was too expensive. But I loved that coat and I wore it until it had to be retired.
It was a great gift, long remembered, perhaps a little luxury I would not have bought had he given me the money instead. He gave me something I would not have realized I would love, and was surprised by how much I loved in actuality.
This goes back a long time to an era when I was still in college and my best friend was getting married. I was to be the best man and I wanted to give him something special and memorable that he/they would treasure for years to come, and be reminded of this glorious occasion and of our long friendship.
To go to a store and buy something seemed too easy, lacking in meaning and profundity. Perhaps it was just my own ego.
This wedding gift needed to be more special than that, the product of my own hands perhaps, but I had no skills with which to make anything for them.