Pam Thomas, of Birmingham, enjoys some stretching in a yoga class Nov. 19 at The  Community House in Birmingham.

Pam Thomas, of Birmingham, enjoys some stretching in a yoga class Nov. 19 at The Community House in Birmingham.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Giving classes as gifts makes for long-lasting memories

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published November 27, 2018

METRO DETROIT — There aren’t many things in life that are as exciting as opening a gift.

The anticipation of what might be, the crunch of the wrapping paper, the reveal as the box opens and the excitement of seeing that special something meant just for you.

And then, as quickly as it started, it’s over.

See, it’s been proven that the joy of receiving a tangible present is somewhat short-lived. A study out of Cornell University says there are a few reasons why this is the case: For one, objects are easier to compare to others. A fancy new flat-screen may lose its luster when you find out the neighbor got an even bigger one.

But mainly, stuff doesn’t stick out in our minds very well, while experiences literally make memories, and those live in our hearts for a long time.

Really, it’s proven.

So, one way to make sure we give truly memorable gifts this holiday season is by purchasing opportunities for experiences, as opposed to things.

It’s like that old proverb says: Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Give him a 12-week course at a renowned culinary school, and he’ll be preparing dinner parties for a lifetime.

Catherine Anderson, of Beverly Hills, received the gift of an experience from her husband years ago when he surprised her with a beginners tap dance class at The Community House in Birmingham. She went on to take that same class seven more times before she, reluctantly, advanced to the next level.

“I like something that helps me learn new things, and especially with the dance classes, it keeps your brain active,” said Anderson, a retiree who also takes art history classes at the center. “You’re doing things on your right and then the left, and your brain has to make that switch, and you memorize steps. At this stage in life I’d much rather have a class than, I don’t know, a new dishwasher.”

Over at Schoolcraft College’s Continuing Education and Professional Development Department in Livonia, Associate Dean Leslie Petty said that every so often, people will purchase college gift cards for loved ones so they can purchase the noncredited class of their choice, ranging from photography to coding.

“They’ll present the gift card with a continuing education catalog, and it gives them the option of choosing what they’d like,” Petty said, noting that the classes are less stressful but just as informative as a traditional college course at the school.

“They’re absolutely fun. Those culinary classes are phenomenal. It’s the same chefs that teach our culinary (degree) students, and everyone walks out of there well-fed and with all of the recipes in hand, knowing how to do them.”

Petty added that some gifters will purchase professional growth classes for a loved one who is changing careers, with options like computer classes and data analysis courses.

And giving classes for the holidays not only provides the recipient with a fun new skill, but also an excuse to get out of the house every so often during the typically mundane Michigan winter.

Or not, if it’s just too cold and a couch-surfing session sounds good.

“Five- to 10-class packages allow students to attend class without much commitment. They can try different styles of classes and find what works with their schedule and attend when possible,” said Lynn Fischer, of Simple Movements Yoga Studio in Clinton Township.

Fischer said it’s not often that someone will purchase a class package as a gift, though it does happen, which means it would probably be a unique surprise. And the benefits go well past the holiday season.

“It’s a unique personal experience for the body and mind,” Fischer said. “Most classes incorporate breathing, stretching, balance and techniques to calm the mind.”

Don’t forget, of course, that classes are a more social experience than, say, a gift card for the mall. They’re more thoughtful too, according to Denise Fry, director of community engagement at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.

“When you give a loved one the gift of attending a class or an event, you acknowledge a person’s passion for new life experiences,” Fry said in an email. “New memories are created, and enhanced health and joy is found on the path of lifelong learning, along with meeting new people and accepting new challenges. These ideals are superior to the giving of any material item, both to the giver and receiver of an experience gift.”