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Giving Great Gift: How To Think The Thought That Counts.
Here it is in a nutshell: it’s the thought that counts because it’s the thought itself that is actually the gift. The material expression of that thought is what you wrap up in brightly colored paper and shiny ribbons. But if the gift inside does not clearly reveal The Thought, it may be splashy or clever or impressive – but it will never be truly great. What, then, in our quest to give great gift, is The Thought We Should Be Thinking?
Actually, it’s so simple, I’m almost embarrassed to say it. But The Thought We Should Be Thinking is: what do I want? Sound crazy? After all, if what we want is a fur coat/car/ticket to the Super Bowl/vacation cruise/puppy, and the giftee happens to live in the Bahamas, doesn’t have a driver’s license, hates football, gets seasick, and is allergic to dogs, wouldn’t giving them what we want be . . . well, thoughtless? Indeed. But – the question is not: what material expression do I want? Since the thought itself is the gift, the only real question is: what thought do I want?
And the thought we want from others – most of us, anyway – is to be thought of as special. We’d like to know that they listen to what we say and that they care about what we want. What greater gift can there be? But – how can we give it? Why, by listening to what people say, and by caring about what they want. And if the gift lets them know this, it will be a Great Gift.
“White lilacs,” your wife said once, wistfully. “My father gave me the most enormous bouquet of white lilacs for my sixteenth birthday.” And you listened. And you cared. And an enormous bouquet of white lilacs was the Great Gift that you gave her on . . . well, her next birthday. With a card that said, “You’ll always be my Sweet Sixteen.”
While your husband was watching a baseball game on TV one Sunday afternoon, he commented, “Dad always promised to take me to Cooperstown, to the Baseball Hall of Fame.” And he almost managed to sound nonchalant when he added “But we never got there.” And you listened. And you cared. And you enjoyed the Great Gift together by making arrangements to celebrate your next anniversary in Cooperstown.
Now, while this concept may have spectacular results when applied to our nearest and dearest, don’t overlook its potential even in the office-Christmas-party ten-dollar-limit category. Let’s say you have to get a gift for Ms. Edwards in Accounting, and the first thought that springs to mind is a pair of Isotoner gloves. But then you say: hey. Ms. Edwards is a pretty cool old lady. Why not give her a Great Gift? Well, if you think she’s a pretty cool old lady, that means you’ve probably listened to her once or twice. What are some of the things she said? How did she look when she said them? Think, now. Yes! That day in the lunchroom. She was talking about her days in junior college when – aha! That’s it! When she wrote some sonnets for an English term paper! And how did she look when she said that? Why, Ms. Edwards actually blushed! So you give her a nice little book of sonnets. Maybe with a note inside. “Poems for a Poet,” perhaps. And she blushes again. Feels good, doesn’t it?
And you can keep on feeling good, because there’s a virtually unlimited wealth of Great Gift material out there. If you’re willing to listen. To your parents and siblings, your spouse, your friends, that nice guy down at the supermarket. You do listen to them, don’t you? And you do care about what they want? Well, then. The rest should be easy.
This article was posted on December 17, 2004