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As I sit down to put thoughts onto the screen, it’s 138 days until Christmas. Many of us will sit down with family in four months, two weeks, and two days to open presents. This can be a special time for those with the love language of giving (or maybe receiving) gifts. So I ask: What does a gift mean to you?

Some people relish giving gifts; others dread it. Some of us don’t have the emotional needle moved with a gift, while some will be launched into an aura of happiness for days. For some, the thought counts, especially when there is no apparent reason for the gift. Knowing someone thought of you enough to give you something can be a gift. 

But on the flip side of the coin, some gifts fall flat. I love a good, thoughtful gift when it’s apparent someone was thinking about me and what I like or might want. But there are times, more than you want to know when I open up a trinket. The problem with trinkets is they sit around on the counter, tossed in the junk drawer, or buried in a box, maybe moved through a couple of different houses until it gets set out at a rummage sale in the hopes of getting $1.75 before throwing it away.

The Intersection

For me, both in giving and receiving, a solid gift is appreciated, usable, and not on a list. A great gift sits at the intersection of three to four things:

  • Appreciated
  • You weren’t going to get it for yourself
  • Meets a need
  • You didn’t know you wanted it

The first three, I think, are reasonably achievable for the giver with a modicum of effort. If you pay enough attention to someone, you can probably identify something that sits there. But finding something they didn’t know they wanted is giving at another level.

Some people say give the customers what they want, but that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d ask customers what they wanted, they would’ve told me a faster horse.” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.

Steve Jobs

Great Gifts

Early on, I got my wife a gift that I would say is a gift that keeps on giving. She needed a hair dryer, and I got one for her. She didn’t immediately like it because I always strive for the highest quality products, and she wouldn’t pay that much for a hair dryer. But this one should last for many years; she enjoys using it, and it’s quieter than a typical hair dryer. To me, it wins all around. 

Spurs Ticket Mockup

Similarly, she got me Spurs tickets one year. Using her skills in the graphic arts, she even mocked up fake tickets to present to me because she wisely gave me a say in where our seats were (yes, that’s a distinct impact on the game experience and enjoyment). Not only could I see Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili (and pre-crazy Kawhi Leonard) on the court together in person, but we won the game, and it was a nice mid-winter trip. 

My sister-in-law also nailed a gift one year. I wasn’t expecting anything from her, but I unwrapped a fleece Cowboys tie blanket. I’m not going out to buy myself a blanket for random use. Still, she provided me with a comfortable blanket long enough to be helpful, representing one of my teams. Tess, if you’re reading this, it’s wearing out, and I could use a new one.

Contrast those with 20 yea…..

Ok, I’m just going to pause for a moment and acknowledge 20 years ago, I was six months from getting on a plane bound for Iraq. Time flies.

Contrast those with 20 years ago, finding out just a month before Christmas that I’m going to Iraq, and the awkward state the holidays fall into. What do you get someone heading overseas? 


I got playing cards: decks and decks and decks of playing cards from seemingly everyone. Talk about a gift falling flat… I don’t play cards. My card playing extends to solitaire or freecell on the computer only if I’m bored enough to want to kill time that way. I have no idea where any of those cards went, but they didn’t go to Iraq.

My unedited document says I’m at 685 words and counting, so I’ll wrap up. Hopefully, for anyone you give a gift to, please put some thought into it. Cash will always be appreciated at a base level for nearly anyone. But if you can figure out the convergence of appreciated, needed, wasn’t going to get it, and didn’t know I wanted, I will remember that forever.

Delighted Suprise

It eats at me when people want a list given to them. Show me you have paid enough attention to determine more than me telling you what to provide me with (yes, even though I struggle to find something my brother will like). There’s no magic or delighted surprise in that. Tiah has sometimes asked how I came up with an idea, and often it’s something they mentioned in a conversation months ago. Or how a staff with a bunch of fans of The Office gets an old Video iPod in the mix at a White Elephant exchange.

So the adage that it’s the thought that counts rings true, but sometimes all the thought has to be is cash always helps buy something they’ve been saving for.

Please, hit the comments below: What does a gift mean to you?

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