Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Give the Gift of Self


“Silver and gold are not gifts, but only excuses for gifts. The only true gifts are gifts of self.”Anon.

In this season of gift-giving, it’s easy to get sucked into a frenzy of gift-buying. The urgency of checking off our list can seduce us into focusing on gifts that come from a store and can be tied up with a bow. 

Surely they’ll be appreciated when opened, but just as surely they’ll soon lose their luster and be forgotten. The truth is, most of what we purchase in our gift-giving frenzies are things the recipients don’t really need. A comment by Dallin Oakes, my university president in my undergraduate days, explains why these gifts ultimately leave both giver and receiver feeling empty: “You can never get enough of what you don’t need, because what you don’t need won’t satisfy you.”

What they do need—and what we all need—more of is a little more old-fashioned human kindness.

I’d like to suggest that in lieu of (or perhaps in addition to) those store-bought gifts, we consider giving gifts that are a little piece of ourselves. But what to give? I believe if we pause and take time to ask ourselves one simple question, we’ll know what to give.

What can I do to demonstrate my love, esteem, respect, or appreciation for this person?

Note that the question invites us to “do” and to “demonstrate.” Loving, esteeming, respecting, and appreciating all call for expression and action.

Here is a short list to get you started. I’m sure your list will be much longer and more specific than this one.


Listen generously.

Listen generously to their stories.

Ask how they’re feeling.

Ask how they’re really feeling, and pay close attention to their answer.


Share what’s in your heart.

Share the stories in your heart.

Express appreciation.

Express appreciation that is specific, sincere, and succinct.

Express appreciation that is specific, sincere, and succinct in a written note.

Seek to understand.

Seek to understand, then to be understood.


Ask for their forgiveness.


Call just to say hello.

Call just to say hello and forget about the time.

Bake their favorite cookies.

Bake their favorite cookies and then eat them together.

Share some photographs together.

Hug. Hug long and hard.

Hug long and hard, look them in the eyes, and say “I love you.”

Hug long and hard, look them in the eyes, say “I love you, and here’s why . . .”

By now, you get the picture. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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