With Black Friday is behind us, perhaps you have a few folks still left on your shopping list.
If so, allow me to offer my annual gift giving guide to the four best presents that you can gift someone.
I promise you that they are far superior to any cashmere sweater, shiny trinket, or electronic doo-dad that you’re thinking of buying.
The best gift of all is the gift of time, and it’s not a terribly difficult or expensive gift to give. In the past, Elysha has hired people to cut the grass, rake the leaves, and shovel the driveway, thus returning this precious time to me.
Remove an hour of obligation from my life, and I am a happy man.
Other options include things like babysitting my children, bringing my car to the shop to get that lock on the back door repaired, determining the contents of the boxes in my attic, correcting my multiplication tests for a month, or offering to complete any task or chore that I would otherwise be forced to do myself.
Your friend or loved one’s list would be different, of course Hopefully it doesn’t include a broken lock or mystery boxes in your attic. But I’m sure you can think of things that they would rather not do that you are more than capable of accomplishing on their behalf.
I know this sounds crazy to some people. They say things to me like:
“Matt, I’d rather mow my own grass and receive that cashmere sweater.”
“I’d rather correct a mountain of spelling tests and unwrap a brand new iPad on my birthday.”
“I’m more than happy to shovel my driveway. Give me that new Fitbit/star finder/water purification device that I have wanted for months.”
I’m sorry, but I think you’re wrong. I know it may seem presumptuous to tell you what you or your loved one may want, but trust me. The difference between what you want and what you think you want could not be more different.
I promise you that when you are lying on your death bed, surrounded by all of your material possessions – your stuff – your greatest regret will be the time you could’ve spent doing things. Seeing people. Experiencing the world. At that moment, the gift of time will mean more to you than anything else.
It should mean just as much today. Don’t wait until it’s too late to appreciate it.
Also, it’s very unlikely that you need any more clothing or jewelry or electronics. You could probably do without the device that clips to your belt or fastens to your handlebars or makes imaginary things explode when you click the right combination of buttons.
The thing you should crave – more than anything else – is time.
Coming in a close second to time (and in many ways its first cousin) is the gift of knowledge. Find a way to teach me to do something that I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t been able to learn.
Either teach me yourself or find someone who can do it for you.
We all go through life wishing that we could do more. Accomplish more. Achieve more. This is a gift that would allow a friend or loved one to take one small step closer to those dreams.
For me, it’s meant sending Elysha to a cooking or art class. Hiring her a ukulele teacher.
For Elysha, it’s meant buying me an hour with a professional poker player or lessons with a golf instructor.
In these instances, we walk away with nothing material but something far more valuable:
The gift of knowledge. The acquisition of a skill. A slight improvement in an area that means a great deal to us.
Far more valuable than a pretty scarf or a new gadget. And now that so much as moved online, finding experts in a variety of fields is only a Zoom call away. Charlie is taking guitar lessons via Zoom. My friend is taking personalized yoga classes via the internet. Bringing a high quality instructor into your home has never been easier.
My list of things that I want to learn include:
- Hitting my driver longer and more consistently
- Using online educational resources like Prodigy and Freckle more effectively in the classroom
- Take better photographs
- Designing my YouTube channel to maximize all of the features available to me
Again, your friend of loved one’s list will of course be different, but if you find the thing they want to learn, it can be an extraordinary gift.
This one is simple and spoken about often. Want to make me happy? Send me to a Broadway show. Get me tickets to a Yankees game. Bring me to see a comedian who I love. Purchase tickets to a concert.
This is admittedly more challenging in the midst of a pandemic depending upon your friend or loved one’s comfort level in crowds, but there are plenty of outdoor events and even online opportunities to enjoy. For my birthday, Elysha hired a world renown magician to perform on Zoom for me and our friends. It was remarkable.
It doesn’t take much to create a memorable and unique experience for a person. You won’t have anything to show for the experience once it’s done except the memories of the moment, but that is always better than the stuff that clutters our homes.
Studies repeatedly show that money spent on experiences generates far greater happiness than money spent on things. But we know this already.
An afternoon spent biking with your kids or a weekend with your friends at the beach or an evening spent sitting beside your wife at a concert are always better than the thing inside the box with the bow.
We’re fools if we think otherwise.
This is new to my list, but it should’ve been included for a long, long time. In some ways, it’s also a close cousin to the gift of time because it amounts to the past presented in a new and interesting way. A return or a resurrection of days gone by. A dip into the waters of your youth.
Three years ago, my workplace birthday buddy surprised me with a lunch with former colleague who retired a few years ago. For an hour in the middle of my school day, I was able to take a step back in time when my friend was still working alongside me. We ate, talked, and reminisced about the multitude of moments we spent together.
It was my best workplace lunch ever. One of the best gifts that I’ve ever received.
Elysha has been giving me the gift of nostalgia for years, commissioning artists to paint images of the map of my Boy Scout camp, my childhood home, my grandparent’s home, my dog, and a shelf containing all of my book. A couple Christmases ago she gave me a Viewmaster Viewer, loaded with images of our family.
These are some of the best gifts that I have ever received. Important places and things reimagined and returned to my life, complete with the memories and joy that they once contained.
A couple years ago. my workplace birthday buddy surprised me with paintings of two photos that I had posted online earlier that summer. Small, artistic representations of moments that I remember so well.
An incredible and perfect gift. One that I will treasure for all my days.
Each time I look at these bits from the past, I am transported back to those days, and I’m reminded of all the happiness and goodness that accompanied these places and people.
These gift, particularly now in this upside down world, have been so important to me. Reminders of what once was and what will someday be again.
Time, Knowledge, Experience, and Nostalgia.
If you still have someone on your holiday shopping list or you simply want to make someone in your life happy, give one of these a try.
They truly are the best gifts a person can receive, even if they don’t know it yet.