Every year, when someone asks me what I want for Christmas, I cannot think of one material thing I truly want or need.
My house is filled with all the things I love and have collected over the years—meaningful gifts from friends and family, souvenirs from my travels around the globe or trinkets I bought myself at different milestones in my life.
If you asked me what someone got me last year for the Holidays, I don’t think I could identify or remember one actual gift unless I was staring at it to jog my memory.
What I do remember though and never forget, no matter how many years go by is something I think we all need and want:
Acknowledgement. Words of love. A card filled with sentiments that boost our spirits and tell us how much we mean to someone.
An email, as unfancy and unfestive as that may sound… revealing words and thoughts that you have never expressed to someone that they may need to hear.
Better yet… if you can do this for someone you don’t see every day, or aren’t intimately close with, who has impacted you in some small way, it has even more meaning. Because they aren’t expecting it.
And they probably have no idea that they mean anything to you.
These were the top 10 gifts I received from somebody this year. The ones that cost absolutely nothing (or most likely very little) and hold a place in my heart forever. 20 years from now I will remember these gifts from these special people and the year they gifted them to me:
1) A Bag of jewelry from an old co-worker.
My house just got broken into over the Thanksgiving Holiday and every single piece of jewelry I own was stolen. I was heartbroken. Not because I was that attached to my stuff, but there were some special pieces from my grandmother and mother that can never be replaced.
Just last week, a generous women who I used to work with gave me a small bag of jewelry from her own personal collection. She said, “This is to start rebuilding what you lost.”
It was one of the most beautiful gestures and heartfelt things anyone has ever done for me.
2) A card from my partner-in-crime at work.
For my birthday, she gave me a beautiful card that told me how much she admired my strength and who I was becoming as a result of all I’d been through. It was worded so beautifully and because I admire and respect her so much…meant more to me than anything.
3) An overnight retreat with my best friend.
My best friend is an amazing facilitator that travels the country helping to heal others with her wisdom, honesty and ability to see what is beneath the surface of what people show. She gave me the gift of her time. Her time and my time is very limited these days.
The love, time and attention she gave me that night left me feeling better than I had felt in months and came at a time when I was really struggling.
4) A voicemail from an old friend.
He has left me a series of messages over the past several months that always come on a day I’m falling apart. The last one went something like this, “How is my smart, beautiful accomplished, brilliant friend doing?” He then went on to say how proud he was of my determination to make something better out of my life despite all the struggles and he would be there for me every step of my journey.
5) An email from a total stranger.
She wrote to tell me that she had read one of my articles and that it changed the way she was living her life. That she felt there was one person in the world who understood what she had been through and how she felt. Then told me to “keep up the trailblazing for the rest of us!”
It came on a day I was filled with self-doubt about my writing and filled with fear about continuing to put myself out there for the world to see.
6) A hug from one of the Janitorial ladies at work.
Because she said I looked sad and thought I needed one.
7) The gift of service.
One of my neighbors (and none of them will take credit for it), takes my garbage pails in every week without fail because I work so late. They once left a note on the can that said, “We are always here to help.”
8) A free haircut from my hairdresser.
Because she knows money is tight right now and she feels all single moms should support each other in their time of need.
9) A birthday message from a friend I haven’t seen in four years.
Her words that my journey and transformation was a beacon of grace and hope and an inspiration for others who strive to better themselves in the face of adversity, had me in tears. I replay it every so often when I’m having a bad day.
10) Words of encouragement from my family and all of my friends.
They know who they are. They tell me every day that they don’t judge me or think I can’t do this. They gift me daily with their advice, love and support.
These 10 things take the place of every single material item I own. I would trade everything I have to have 10 more just like this every year.
Take the time to reach out to somebody who needs you. Who has given themselves selflessly to you in some way. Who maybe has inspired you to be better or helped you through a painful period in your life.
It doesn’t even have to come from you. Let it be anonymous if it must. Express your love and appreciation for them.
Say the words, “I love you.”
Say, “Thank you for what you did for me.”
Say, “I’ve changed because of you and I’ll never forget it.”
There can never be enough love in this world. Or enough authentic expression to the people in our life who have extended themselves to us in some small way. Or inspired us through their actions.
To know we have made a difference. To know we are loved. To hear that the way we show up in the world is inspiring somebody else.
To know that somebody’s life has been made better or easier because of some small gesture we did.
That is the gift we all want this Holiday season.
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Renee Picard
Image: Janet Ramsden at Flickr