The Most Valuable Gift

WRITTEN BY: Jessica Wright

The holidays are often thought of as the season of giving. Usually that’s in the form of actual merchandise, donations to charities, or holiday bonuses. For many people, especially in a tough economic year, this can cause stress. What if you can’t afford to give in the traditional way? What can you give that won’t cost anything, but might be extremely valuable to the receiver?

Years ago I decided to make it a practice to compliment complete strangers when I noticed something attractive about their appearance. At first, it can feel awkward. They are often startled, and it takes them a moment to absorb what you’ve said. Which shows you how rare this kind of exchange is. But boy oh boy, nine out of ten times they light up like a Christmas tree.

A simple compliment, like, “Wow, I really like your coat. That looks great on you,” can lead to a bigger conversation. Where they got it? Why they like it, and sometimes something deeper and more meaningful as the conversation continues. They usually walk away smiling or laughing. Maybe next time they see you they’ll say hello. Or they’ll just smile.

Men receive compliments much less often than women. Women feel more comfortable giving compliments to each other, while men never feeling comfortable complimenting another dude. I told a young man the other day that I thought the shoes he was wearing were great. He was delighted. Most likely he’d never received a compliment from a stranger before.

The other great gift is a simple, heartfelt thank you. Thank any of the people you see on a day-to-day basis that maybe you take for granted. Tell your local coffee barista how much you appreciate their friendly service. What about the crossing guard that makes sure your kids are getting across the street safely each day? And what about your dog walker? How grateful are you, knowing that your fur child is in safe hands each day while you’re at work.

There are probably dozens of people in your life on a regular basis that you appreciate, and this is your chance to let them know.

Maybe this will become a habit that will continue on into the year. Maybe it will start a chain reaction. To quote John Lennon, ‘Imagine’.

So if you’re feeling a little short on finances this year, remember an unexpected compliment or a heartfelt thank you can pay dividends that will last for days, months, years, and maybe even for you, a lifetime.

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