Certainly not a hard-hitting question for this month’s column, but it does make one stop and think. Which gifts in the form of a bauble, trinket, photo, name, adventure or living being do our colleagues share with us? Please read on, enjoy their answers and take a moment to consider what ranks as “the best” gift in your life thus far. In this column, adopted from the familiar “Heard on the Street” format, we offer our responders a chance to answer the question posed in the title. These are their replies reported verbatim.
The Best Gifts Ever
I’ve received many great gifts throughout my life, but there can be only one “best” gift. In my case, once I thought about it, it was an easy choice because I’ve only received it once — many years ago. It’s a small statue of The Incredible Hulk with an inscription that reads, “World’s Best Dad.”
National Propane Gas Association
Tinley Park, Illinois
The best gift I have ever received is a handwritten card and framed photo of my 12-year-old granddaughter and me, thanking me for being her music teacher and being her “wicked cool Papa.” I also received a beautiful canvas photo of all my grandchildren for Christmas. Both of them made me cry with love for them.
My mother’s maiden name was Maude, and when I was little, I always wanted to be a Maude, too. My favorite stuffed animal back then was a blue mouse I named ‘Maudie Mouse,’ whom I still possess. I used to always ask my mom why my middle name was Ann and not Maude? She told me if I liked Maude so much, I should just use it, and no one would know the difference.
I would reply, “Well, I would know.” Fast forward years later to my 21st birthday. My gift? A legal name change to Leslie Maude Woodward. I was so happy! Ann was really gone, and I got to be the Maude I always wanted to be. Of course, it didn’t stop there. My son, who probably will never forgive me, is the proud possessor of Maude as a middle name as well. The reason this was my favorite gift? My mom’s brother died at a young age and there were no more Maudes. That always made me so sad. I thought that my becoming a Maude, even though only through a middle name, would somehow stop that from happening. I still like to think it worked.
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
The best “gift” I ever received was for our 25th wedding anniversary. My husband gifted me with a beautiful new diamond. It was not the diamond that made it the best gift ever (although it is gorgeous). It was that he actually was making payments to the jeweler for a long time ahead of the date. My favorite part, though, was that after 25 years of discussing financial planning and better ways of handling money, he had actually done it and done so in advance!
Rural Computer Consultants
Bird Island, Minnesota
I’m going to have to say the best gift I have ever received was from a complete stranger. Jimmy and I were not able to have children of our own, and so we looked into adoption. On Oct. 14, 1991, we received a call — a 14-year-old girl who I never met had carried her child to term knowing she would not be able to raise him, but abortion was not an option for her.
I can’t think of a more generous, selfless gift. Why was it the best? If you have ever had the blessing of holding your child (whether from below the heart or in it) for the first time, the answer to why will be clear.
I would say Bella, my rescue from the pound. I wasn’t expecting her; someone thought I needed her. They were right. She has brought me much joy over the past five years. There’s nothing else in the world quite like a dog’s love. On days I feel frustrated, she’s right there with a paw to my heart and gazes deep in my eyes like she’s saying, “No worries, I’m here for you.”
She doesn’t care if I screw up royally; she still loves me just as she did the day before. I took her to SPCA recently, and we picked out another rescue, Walker, whom we both adore. If I could rescue them all, I would. Best gift ever!
I have received numerous gifts throughout my life that were so special, and the obvious choice would be the wonderful foundation my parents gave me as a child. But there is one gift that stands out. My husband surprised me for my 50th birthday with a cruise to the Southern Caribbean. He planned the trip for eight months and was able to keep it a surprise! When he presented it to me, I had about two weeks to prepare. It was an amazing trip and remains my favorite vacation of all those I have been privileged to experience.
McMahan's Bottle Gas
Why Is the Gift Significant?
As is true for most of us, I have given and received gifts that have been meaningful to me — many are treasured still. Looking into the psychology of gifts on a common search engine, I wasn’t surprised to learn it is often the case that the giver — rather than the recipient — reaps the biggest psychological gains from gift giving.
Gifts are universal symbols of gratitude and can build relationships or make someone feel special. They are used to congratulate, sympathize and appreciate. It’s clear that when we hand over a gift to another, we are handing over more than what’s in the box. Strong messages are sent without words as we turn to gifts, hoping to convey complex feelings. Yes, giving and receiving gifts are complicated and important parts of our human interaction.
Selecting just the right gift comes with the pressure of matching it to our intended affection. Famously, nations give gifts (think the Statue of Liberty) and so do individuals (think flowers) as proxies of our appreciation. The next time you are lucky enough to be opening a gift, tear into the decorative paper and enjoy your carefully wrapped proxy of real affection.