When my husband turned 40, I knew that I wanted to do something that would “wow” him in a way that yet another wrapped gift just wasn’t going to do. Trips are nice, of course, but our hectic work schedules weren’t going to allow it at the time. In taking stock of what really fuels him during my brainstorm, I’m proud to say it’s most certainly his friends and family – and, he’s also a pretty sentimental dude so that weighed in my decision as well (the warm-and-fuzzy stories of sports heroes helping others on ESPN Saturday mornings gets him every time, ha). I took that insight and decided the best gift to give was one that would feed his spirit (and unexpectedly mine) in a positive way: I secretly created an email alias that only he would access on his birthday (and beyond) and asked his closest friends and family to write personal messages to him directed to the alias about how much he meant to them and/or funny or thoughtful memories they had made together. I knew it was a lot to ask people to take time from their busy schedules to do this, and I wasn’t sure how jazzed most of his guy friends would be about the request, but I was humbled and full of joy to find how many people were truly happy and excited to do this for him. And, obviously the punchline here is that it was probably the best gift I’ve ever given him or anyone else. I never saw the email contents, of course, but I know he laughed, he cried (real men do), and was truly grateful for each and every word that people took the time to share with him. Bingo!
In another example, this past Christmas, like many years before, I struggled with the perfect family gifts. Most notably my mother, who in truth, I can never seem to get quite right in my own measure. I’m sure I’m not alone – we all put a lot of pressure on ourselves to find that perfect representation of what someone means to us and you realize that sometimes a robe just doesn’t seem to sum it up, but when you get down to the wire, it is what it is. Thankfully, this year almost by accident, a friend of mine mentioned something she had gotten her parents and I knew this was going to be a winner for my mom as well. I got her a subscription to StoryWorth*: an online company that helps your family collect the stories from their life and memories of previous generations. The stories come together at the end of a year’s worth of answering some basic questions to create a hardcover book keepsake for loved ones. You can use the questions they suggest to guide your recipient’s story development or curate your own. I’m so glad my mom thought the gift was as cool as I did and we can both celebrate the cherished memories that will fuel our spirit!
The success of these two gifts made me think of a song from the musical Hamilton (spoiler alert!) that has really stuck with me, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” It’s something that I now think about daily in what I’m doing, how I’m taking care of myself to sustain, and who I’m impacting in the process: all the things that feed your spirit which sometimes, and unfortunately, get lost in the chaos of life. To that end, I’m grateful that next year I’ll have a bound book that will help me continue to learn those family lessons and honor the memories from my previous generations feeding our collective spirit for years to come.
Too often we wait for something tragic to remind other people how much they mean to us, a difference they’ve made in our lives, or even how a simple gesture that, perhaps, meant nothing in the moment, may surprisingly have had profound impacts on us over time. In these frenetic times, we have to remember the impact that positive spirit can have on those close to us as well as strangers that may cross our path. The saying that the best things in life are free has stood the test of time…so let’s be sure not to forget that in both our daily lives and special occasions. Because, who will live, who will die, and who will tell YOUR story?
*PS – use that hyperlink above to StoryWorth and you’ll get $10 off your purchase!