Gracious giving requires no special talent, nor large amounts of
money. It is compounded of the heart and head acting
together to achieve the perfect means of expressing our
feelings. It is love sharpened with imagination. For,
as Emerson explains, "The only gift is a portion of
A little girl gave her mother several small boxes tied with bright
ribbons. Inside each were slips of paper on which the child
had printed messages such as, "Good for two flower-bed
weedings," "Good for two floor-scrubbings."
She had never read Emerson, but unconsciously she put a large part
of her small self into her gift.
When unexpected expenses wrecked a business girl's budget at
Christmas, she hit upon a similar happy idea. Her presents
that year were "time credit" slips which her friends
could cash in at their convenience. A young couple received
slips entitling them to leave the baby with her for two
week-ends. T a niece in college went an offer of her car for
a Christmas vacation trip. An elderly shut-in could claim
her time for five reading-aloud sessions. No costly presents
gave so much satisfaction--both ways.
A young bride received a wedding present from an older
woman. With it went a note, "Do not open until you and
your husband have your first tiff."
When there finally
came a day of misunderstanding the bride remembered the
package. In it she found a card box filled with her friend's
favorite recipes--and a note, "You will catch more flies with
honey than you will with vinegar." It was a wise woman
indeed who gave of her experience with her gift.
Often the most successful gift is a spontaneous one. Act
while the impulse is fresh--giving of yourself knows no special
Probably no gift ever thrilled a doctor more than a letter he
received from a youngster on her birthday. "Dear
Doctor, 14 years ago you brought me into this world. I want
to thank you, for I have enjoyed every minute of it."
Family gifts should be the most satisfying because we know each
member's wish and whim. Yet how often we make the
stereotyped offerings--ties, candy, or household utensils.
One man I know is planning an unusual present for his wife.
When I saw him coming out of a dancing studio, he explained:
"I got tired of hearing my wife complain about my
dancing. It's going to be a lasting birthday present for
her--my dancing well."
An elderly lady on an Iowa farm wept with delight when her son in
New York had a telephone installed in her house and followed it up
with a weekly long-distance call.
Flowers are our first thought for a sick friend. But why not
a more imaginative idea? A friend in a hospital received a
flowerpot filled with dirt. On top was a packet of seeds
with the note, "You'll have more fun growing your
own!" A nurse told me about a woman patient whose
recovery dated from the moment a neighbor brought her a pressure
cooker, something she had always wanted.
In her autobiography, His Eye Is on the Sparrow, Ethel
Waters tells about her gift to Rex Stout when he was
convalescing. Though she was starring at the time in a
Broadway play, she turned up early one morning at the hospital
and, dressed as a nurse, carried in his breakfast tray. She
spent the day with Stout, diverting him with chitchat, wheeling
his chair, giving him all her attention. Friends of the
author said that this was his most cherished gift.
In your own profession or business you have imaginative gift
opportunities. One Christmas morning a Washington, D.C.,
woman was waiting for a trolley to go to the station when a taxi
stopped beside her. The driver motioned her to get in.
At the station when she fumbled in her purse for the fare, the
driver said, "Nothing doing--I asked you. Merry
Christmas." In memory of her sister who was killed in
service during the war, a waitress often pays the checks of
servicemen who sit at her table.
All gifts that contain a portion of self signify that someone has
been really thinking of us. One of the most useful and
thoughtful travel presents a girl ever received was currency of
the country to which she was going. A friend bought her some
pesos from a bank so that she would have the correct money for
tips and taxi fare when she first arrived in Mexico.
A GI stationed in Mississippi tells this story: "I made
friends with a sharecropper who lived near camp. Though
poor, he was the most contented man I had ever met. One day
when I was grousing about not being able to borrow $20 that I
needed, he handed me the money, saying it was a gift, not a
loan. He explained it this way: 'If I lend you this
money and for some reason you never return it, I must always think
you have wronged me. If I give it to you as a gift, we're
both happy. When you have the money and feel you want to
make me a gift of $20, then we'll both be happy again.'"
Chances for heroic giving are rare, yet every day there are
opportunities to give a part of yourself to someone who needs
it. It may be no more than a kind word or a letter written
at the right time. The important thing about any gift is the
amount of yourself you put into it.