Gauger Shihan agrees with what I have to say here, but since I am writing, I’ll do this from my point of view. Have you ever seen a party invitation that says something like “don’t bring presents, the best gift is your presence”? I’ve seen several of these expressed in different ways.
At times I will come across, in the bottom of a drawer, birthday cards for Gauger Shihan or me, handmade by kids who were students of ours. On Thanksgiving my mom used the “yoga girl” glass of mine that a brown-belt lady student gave to me years ago (I haven’t seen that “karate girl” in years). Occasionally I will look at the cool karate and yoga keychain trinkets which were a present to me from two brothers, our students, before they quit years ago. These are neat and thoughtful gifts, and the practical me really loves the ones that have been in use for years. They bring pleasant thoughts and memories of the givers; and they bring feelings of sadness, loss, regret and missed opportunities since those students are no longer training with us.
On the other hand, there are black belt students of ours who have been with us for many years who have never given me a trinket or tangible present. Yet they have worked side by side with us for years. They have helped me bring my training to new depths through my teaching them. They have helped others achieve their goals. They have given their time and resources to the dojo selflessly.
They have let me see them grow physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. They have put a priority on their own regular training. They have valued what we teach so much that they’ve made it a part of their lives. When I think of these students, it is always with joy and pride, with feelings of richness and fulfillment.
Material things affect me, but they are not the priority. The greatest gift a student can give is their presence at the dojo.