The Best Present I Ever Got

“A gift consists of not what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer.” –Seneca, Moral Essays: Volume III

Hello friend,

I wasn’t always so sure about my purpose in this world. I didn’t always know how best to be who I really am. I definitely didn’t always know what I wanted to do with myself, what kinds of actions I needed to take to fulfill my potential. It is only in the last handful of years that it has become so clear to me that I am a writer.

Sometimes in this life, you get a gut feeling about what is right or what you must do. You get a tingle in your spine or your heart skips a beat when you think about a new direction for your career or your spare time. That burst of adrenaline, the one that feels like candy in your brain, that’s a message from your soul. If followed, it can lead you to the life you were born to live.

Seven years ago, I was just beginning to have those magical butterfly feelings. I was getting the jolts of electricity, goosebumps, and songs in my heart. My soul was catching fire. The idea that had begun to circulate in my brain and cause shockwaves through the rest of my system went something like this: I think I want to be a professional writer. The kind with real books and readers. I don’t know for sure what all the books will say; I only know I want to write and improve people’s lives.  

I had always known I was here to be of service to my fellow human beings, to help lift them up to become as magnificent as they were created to be. I just didn’t know how I was supposed to do that. Until then. It struck me one day with a thought. Then the thought came again. And again. Whenever it came up, those tingles came with it. I finally felt it enough times that I told a close friend about it. I mentioned that I had started a fund for a laptop and had a few hundred bucks in it already. The beginnings of a dream were forming.

Not long after, that friend stopped over and, with an “Aw shucks, this is nothing” look, handed me a white box with the picture of an apple on it. A brand new laptop. His humble explanation: “My Grandma gave me this, but I don’t need it.”

Needless to say, I was absolutely floored. I tried to say I couldn’t accept it, but he wasn’t budging. He wouldn’t even take the money I had in my laptop fund. All of a sudden, my dreams were right there in front of me, literally at my fingertips. I was totally humbled by the gift, and speechless. I knew immediately that it was the most meaningful present anyone had ever given me.

That night in my journal, I wrote, “This is a great jumping-off point for me. In giving me this gift, he also really challenged me to get to work on a book idea…I need to break out the ideas and start jotting everything down in this computer. I can do this thing. Dreams will come true.”

A few days later, after I had started outlining some potential book ideas on the computer, I wrote in my journal, “It is very exciting. I am actually on my way to something! In 20 years, I could be a professional writer who is reminiscing upon these first days of book design. In any case, it is a real rush to dream. My mind and heart are stirred up, and I love that feeling. I am a deeply grateful man tonight….I promise to chip away at this stuff, promise to stay on it and try to remain stirred up. What a wonderful ride! I am so happy and invigorated; gosh, that feels great! Life is so very beautiful.” 

From where I am today, those words sound amazingly prescient. Even though it has all taken me much longer than I had hoped, I have certainly remained stirred up about writing. I have continued the dream and continued to chip away at the work. Next week, Journal of You will be three years old. I am also just finishing my first book and preparing to market it to agents and publishers. It is an exciting moment in my writing career—the culmination of years of hard work and resolve–but this also feels like only the beginning.

Really, though, I know where it started. It started with that simple white box.

Sometimes in life, no matter how independent and self-motivated you think you are, what you really need is someone to stand up for you. You need someone to be your witness, to be the one–maybe the only one–who says, “I believe in you.” That simple white box was my friend telling me loud and clear—and in a way that he probably didn’t have the words for—“I believe in you.” That was the nudge I needed. That was the permission—even more, it was the gauntlet thrown down in front of me—to live my dreams. My course has been set in that direction ever since.

And that is how I know that that simple white box—and the belief it represented—was the greatest gift I have ever received.

How about you? What is your best present ever? Open up your journal and think about what you value and how someone connected you to that value. I excluded gifts from my parents and my wife from consideration, but you can decide how you want to do it. It is probably easiest to begin with a rough list of favorites that jump out at you immediately. Though mine did not come from a birthday or Christmas, those are good places to start the search through your memories. Obviously, it is easiest to name the biggest, most expensive gifts you ever received, and that can be a good launching pad. In my case, part of why some of those big-ticket items are so meaningful to me is the sacrifice of money on the person who gave them to me, especially if they went out of their budget because they knew how much I would appreciate the gift (I think of the time my wife got me a really nice camera that really changed my life and the way I observe my world). However, I challenge you to move beyond the obvious. Are there special gifts that cost the giver little, if any, money but that came from the heart and are thus priceless? Maybe it is something they made for you. Maybe it is a letter. Or the gift of their time. What else, from any price range? What makes the gift so meaningful to you? Is it about who it comes from? Is it because it connects you to your passion or your dreams, like my computer? Is it because it signifies a show of love and support from the giver? Does it say something in a way the giver was never able to say in words? Have you ever given a gift that could be the best that person ever received? What do you think made it so? What does it have in common with your favorite? Has this exercise made you think differently about how you might give in the future? Has it made you more clear about what is truly valuable to you? What is it? Leave me a reply and let me know: What is the best gift you ever received? 

Be a gift to your world,

William

P.S. If this letter reminded you to be grateful, pass it on. Make it a small gift to a loved one. Blessed be.

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