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The Power of a Simple Gift

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I woke up a few Saturdays ago, early like I always do, to a long email from my nephew.  It was totally out of the blue and threw me for a serious loop considering he had never once emailed me before.

This is what he wrote:

 I don’t know how to start this letter in a way that could ever fully explain what I am about to say….But if there is one thing I wish to get across, it is that this letter is written with the weight of a million words, experiences, and people that I have met, that all wish to say one thing. Thank you.

 It may have been inconsequential to you, just a Christmas gift, but there it was that one night. It had been sitting there on my fake oaken shelf to the left of my bed for probably a year….At first tried to ignore it. I was too caught up in the predictability of those simple “Hardy Boys Books” that I read for AR points, but there was an odd gravity to the alien but beautiful eye and gold letters that adorned its blue hardbound spine.  Once, I picked up that which seemed to be the most unnecessarily large and cumbersome book that I had ever held, but put it back under the reasoning that “Dragons aren’t real so this book’s probably super dumb and long.” Something was different about the book though, as if it had its own aura, and finally one night, with nothing else to read, I gave in to curiosity.  I opened the book and entered the world of Eragon. I was awestruck by what I read. I read of heroes, of evil, of magic, of monsters, and of adventure. It was only the prelude to the book, not even the first chapter, but I was captivated and the fantasies have yet to let me go.

Here I sit, some 10 years later, surrounded by the haphazard mess of clothing, food wrappers, and school textbooks that adorn my humble dorm.  It is 2:47a.m. and I hold in my hands what feels like not only the final chapter of this story, but also of my childhood. The words “The End”, brings about a strange sense of finality and a wash of emotions such as: satisfaction, regret, and sentimental memories of fist picking up Eragon. I read “The End” out loud and the flop back onto my bunk bed. I feel old, and somber, but at the same time I feel all the wonder that I first did. It brings me back to when I could not get enough of it. I have lost track of how many times I have read it over and over again. Brings me back to when I could not wait for the next books to come out; Eldest and Brisinger, and then finally, the book I have just finished, Inheritance It brings me back to the hours that I spent guessing, daydreaming, about what would happen next.

 These books, though my favorite, were not the only books you gave me. You also gave the Pendragon series, the Bartemaus trilogy, and others. Then you gave me my Kindle at my graduation, through which I have discovered many more books. But what I think you do not realize, is you didn’t just give me books, you gave me something greater than that. By completely immersing myself in worlds that were foreign to me, between the pages and ink, I have learned many things by the experiences of the characters that lead me through their world. In a sense I have learned most of what I know about life by proxy. My craving for more worlds, quests, and originality changed my interests and eventually my personality. Today I am a more skilled reader and writer then most, and because of my constant devotion to literature I think I am much more intelligent than I would have been without it. What you unknowingly gave me was a large piece of who I am today. Without your small gift I would not be who I am. Isn’t it then, somewhat ironic that although we never spent much time together outside of family gatherings that, that you have had one of the largest effects on my life? It’s kind of funny when I look back at it.

 

Jacob is a freshman in college this year, the oldest of my 13 nieces and nephews.  For most of my adult life I have each year, without fail, mailed gifts to each of them.  When I was single, they were really the only people I had to buy for, so taking the time to pick out something special for each of them wasn’t really a chore.

 

Then I got married and had kids of my own and all my friends started having kids and somehow my Christmas list grew from 13 to 30+.  More than once, I considered giving up the tradition and I may have cheated once or twice by sending gift cards instead an actual gift.

Most of the time, though, a lot of thought and time went into my gifts.  Each year I researched the best and latest youth fiction, reading review after review to try to find books I thought Jacob would like.  I grilled my sister to find out exactly what each kid was “into,” and spent hours hunting down cute outfits for my nieces.  It wasn’t as though my gifts were super expensive or elaborate–who knew if they even noticed them amid all their other bigger, better, & shinier packages–but they were given with love.

And now, as it turns out, they did notice.  All those years, all those gifts, all that time spent, it made a difference.  Even when it seemed unappreciated or inconsequential, it wasn’t.

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I didn’t share this letter to toot my own horn.  I have failed as an Auntie in many ways.  I just thought–aside from being extremely well-written–it was a perfect reminder around this time of year about why we give.

It is easy to get caught up in the commercialism of the holidays, of the need to buy more stuff and have the latest and greatest of everything or the hottest must-have sell-out toy.  But the fact of the matter is that there is a hidden power in the simplest of gifts, so long as they come from the heart.

And Jacob probably doesn’t realize it, but in writing that letter, he gave me a gift too, one that made me cry, and one that will continue to touch my heart for years to come: the gift of a heartfelt thank-you.

The Power of a Simple Gift

22 Comments

  1. November 30 at 12:27PM

    He made me cry too! What an intelligent, well-educated young man and how nice to hear this from him. Lovely reminder that I needed to hear about gift-giving. I’m sure others do as well. Thank you.

  2. Jane
    November 30 at 12:48PM

    Such a great reminder of what is important this time of year! Thank you so much for sharing. Jacob sounds like a remarkable guy and he is a very talented writer!

  3. Tricia
    November 30 at 12:50PM

    Tears are running down my cheeks. Just lovely. Thank you.

  4. Nicole
    November 30 at 01:56PM

    What a wonderful letter and a great reminder. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Couponing Carla
    November 30 at 04:13PM

    You should have this letter framed and hang it in your office as a reminder forever of a special experience from someone very special. What a great letter! Made me cry!

  6. Jackie Hollander
    November 30 at 05:00PM

    Wow, there are times when your kids simply floor you! You wouldn’t know it today but Jacob really struggled when he was little…even had to attend a “challenge” class for three years. Your gifts of books literally changed his life. We will get comments about his reading and we always tell the story of his auntie Ruth sending books for Christmas. As you can see he is a gifted writer and much of that is because of all the reading. A big big thank you from me (the mother who watched him struggle) Love you and all you mean to our kids….now I need a box of tissue!

  7. Carolyn Goble, (Jacob's Gramma)
    November 30 at 06:49PM

    We just never know how we affect another……a look, …..a word…..a smile…….I taught in secondary education almost 40 years………once in a great while, “out of the blue” I would get a letter of thanks………not written as eloquently as Jacob’s to his Aunt Ruth, I’m afraid, but what a delight to receive the thanks. It should make us all ponder and reflect …..and care, how we affect each other, ….how important each minute of every day is, our challenge to love one another, and remember how important a “thank-you” is…..I’m in awe and so proud of my grandson.

  8. December 1 at 08:03AM

    OH, what a sweet heart. You are right, a heart felt thank you means a lot, most people don’t give those now days and even though that’s not why we give…it’s nice to get once in a while. I just love this post, what a great letter! Jess

  9. Claire
    December 1 at 05:57PM

    Oh gosh, what a great post. Made me cry too!
    Thanks for sharing his sweet letter. What an amazing kid!

  10. C. W.
    December 1 at 10:29PM

    Wow…that was wonderful. You go Jacob! Not only have you planted a wonderful seed into your nephew, I’m sure that as a father he will do the same for his children and so on. The impact you’ve made in his life will be generational.

  11. Jessica Rockwell
    December 2 at 12:56PM

    it is important to my husband and I to sent gifts to all of our nieces and nephews. Now it will be even more special to me 🙂 Thanks for the post!

  12. Amy Peters
    December 4 at 08:39AM

    Thanks for the lovely post. I keep trying but my kids fail to understand the power of a handwritten (if possible) thank you – yet. You remind me again that a gift, no matter how small, given with love, is big.

  13. Dee Davis
    December 4 at 04:23PM

    Such a powerful message from such a simple gesture. THESE are things we HOPE for with children. That the seemingly small things we do, say or express will somehow make a difference. What a beautiful time of the year to be reminded of the importance of “paying it forward”.

    He is much more than a gifted writer, he is a THINKER. And a doer.

    Thank you for sharing you just added a new dimension to your website. 🙂

  14. leeann
    December 9 at 08:14AM

    wow. beautiful!

  15. Mary
    December 30 at 04:19PM

    Just read your post and wanted to thank you! I have gotten the idea that Christmas is so commercialized…well it is…but you make me think about it differently. Your right about spending time and thought to care. And to share, especially as God has shared…giving us the most AMAZING, ASTOUNDING, and EVERYTHING gift…HIS SON!!! Blessings to you and your family!!!

  16. December 2 at 11:52AM

    Wow, what an absolutely touching letter! That is really so, so fantastic!

  17. December 2 at 08:22PM

    How sweet of him to do that.

  18. Whitney
    December 4 at 09:04AM

    Wow! What an awesome heartfelt thank-you~! Very touching thank you for sharing!

  19. Anonymous
    December 6 at 11:12PM

    So sweet and much needed. Thank you!

  20. Lisa Longoria
    December 12 at 10:27AM

    I’m sitting here with tears rolling down my cheeks. What a beautiful gift you have given & received. Inspiring from both perspectives. This just made my holiday season. Thank you for sharing.

  21. December 19 at 07:22PM

    Oh what a great letter. The power of books and a great aunt who sent them to him!
    Wishing you a great Christmas
    Vickie

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