[This post comes to us from one of our favorite educators and authors: Barbara Gruener, a counselor and character coach at Westwood-Bales Elementary School in Friendswood, Texas. Check out her blog, The Corner on Character, and order her new book, What’s Under Your Cape? Superheroes of the Character Kind, in our online store.]
A song that comes to mind as I watch people exchanging not only gifts but pleasantries this time of year is My Favorite Things, beautifully sung by the talented Julie Andrews in the movie The Sound Of Music.
But as I reflect on my personal favorite things, the Art Buchwold adage — “The best things in life aren’t things” — certainly rings true. Here then, are a few of my favorite things, most of which cost zero dollars and zero cents, but all of which are undoubtedly more valuable than gold.
1. Listening. When’s the last time that you’ve invited someone to come on over and share their story or vice versa? Ah, the gift of a listening ear. In a world that’s oft-times way too busy for talk time, isn’t it a treat to know that someone’s right there in the room, face to face, to share our blessings and our burdens? Why not be that person next time there’s a need … or just because!
2. Comfort. There are so many ways to comfort in addition to the aforementioned gift, including to understand and empathize. Ponder these options beyond that to be compassionate and show that you care when someone’s hurting. Send a sweet note in the mail. Buy a bouquet of flowers and hand them out one by one. Give a big bear hug. Offer a ride. Pick up the phone and call or text. Share a smile. Take a walk with someone. Be the person whom people seek out for comfort and joy.
3. Music. Wait, hear me out. You don’t have to be a gifted musician to give the gift of music. Oh, sure, you can grab some friends and go caroling, or use your talents on an instrument to spread holiday cheer. But, you can also send a digital download of your favorite song through iTunes for a low cost or as a YouTube video clip for no cost. Why wait? What song will you share to brighten someone’s day?
4. A Hand to Hold. Just this morning, I watched as a pre-K teacher worked to dry the tears of a little one who had fallen down. Once the child had calmed down, Mrs. Chapman gently guided her toward the gym to sit with her class. Reluctantly and still sniffling, the little girl glanced back, and that’s when I heard that angelic teacher ask, “Would you like me to walk with you?” A slight nod and a little grin later, they headed hand-in-hand to their destination.
5. Trust. Recently I was asked to recall a favorite childhood holiday gift. What was it and what made it so special? For me, it was the year my Dad let me in on his plan to surprise our mom with a trip to Las Vegas. He let me play elf and I got to gather the supplies, help wrap the rolls of coins, and create the clues that would ultimately lead her to the big ticket item, her travel itinerary. The coveted gift so many years ago? Dad gave me the gift of his trust.
6. A Good Example. Consider this quote by Alexander Iskander that really grabbed my attention: Kindness is not doing something for someone because they can’t, but because you can. What kindness can you extend that will ripple out not only during the most wonderful time of the year, but all year long? Keep your heart, mind, and eyes open. Opportunities abound to lead by example and model goodness.
7. Time. The other night I drove to Houston with some of my school family to deliver the hats, scarves, gloves, and socks that we collected during our Head To Toe Giving Campaign. The donated items went to warm up some friends who’ve fallen on some hard times and have made their homes on the streets and under the bridges. We also brought pens and paper with us so they could write holiday cards to their families. At the end of the day, it was as much of a gift to my school family and me as it was to them.
These are a few of my favorite things. We may never fully understand the value of these no-cost gifts, be we can always be sure that it’s worth it when we invest in one another.