The Thought That Counts



BY JEAN MARIE JOHNSON

“I can’t give her this. It’s too measly.”

“It’s fine.”

“Mom, it’s embarrassing!”

“Jeannie, you are forgetting the meaning behind your gift. It’s the thought that counts.”

My mom was big on refocusing us kids on the things that mattered. Of course, those words of wisdom went in one ear and out the other at the time, only to reassert themselves many years later.  That “reassertion” has meant a shift in my gifting. I could blame it on the interminable COVID isolation, but that wouldn’t be accurate. You see, this year, I sent my sister, who lives in Connecticut, a Birthday Box. Therein were eight or so gifts, one intended to be opened each day, in a countdown to her birthday. And so, each morning before work, my sister would open one carefully and individually-wrapped present. The memory of that one gift, and the thought behind it, became part of her day.

A few months later, when the holidays rolled around, I felt inspired to take the same approach for my good friend in Massachusetts. Understanding the harsh and long Northern winters as I do, I decided to pursue a theme, in this case, “self indulgence.” Inside the box went skincare items, a nail polish in a new winter shade, and numerous bath products, all designed to aid and abet luxuriating. I wrapped each item individually and tied it with a ribbon. This time, I attached a tiny note to each, either a word like “relax,” or a teaser such as “classic beauty,” or “natural beauty.” Next, I went to my stash of greeting cards, the ones I would have otherwise discarded over time. With a pair of scissors, I cut out flowers, birds, and butterflies with sheer abandon, I happily gave new life – and meaning – to these beautiful images. Then I added a word on the backside of each – something to inspire a beautiful new year, and scattered them within the box.

Suffice it to say that it took my sheltering-in-place friend quite a while to make her way through her personalized gift box! My phone blew up with texts conveying her surprise and deeply felt appreciation.

You may think that I have oodles of time on my hands. I don’t. You may think that I have stashes of money at my disposal. I don’t. You may think that I have lost my mind. I don’t think so. Instead, it was my mother’s words – it’s the thought that counts – that has prompted my revised gifting. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of family and friends will continue to receive the convenient gift card or the book ordered on and delivered by Amazon. After all, I am also practical! But when your heart moves you to take gifting to a new place, consider the theme box. Here are five tips on how to create a personalized gift box, one inspired by the thought and the thoughtfulness behind it:

Create a budget and stick to it.  A gift box is only more expensive if you make it so. Once you have your figure, stay within that parameter.

Identify a key theme or idea. For my sister, it was about celebrating a milestone birthday with both style and grace. For my friend, it was self-indulgence. The theme can be anything, as long as the thought behind it is personal and the gifts you choose, relevant.

Keep your eyes open at all times. You never know when you might stumble upon the perfect, thoughtful something for someone on your gift box list. Foodies, readers, fitness buffs, people relocating, retiring, or going through another type of life change – all lend themselves to themed gifting!

Don’t overlook everyday materials. Remember those greeting cards I mentioned earlier? They are easily repurposed as wee notes you can include in your gift box. I have also included glitter, bird feathers, and preserved flowers to personalize my gift boxes.

Let your heart and your imagination guide you. I can’t stress this enough: A gift box isn’t a status box; it isn’t about impressing the receiver with how much you shoveled out for their gift. It’s about the thought behind what’s in the box that counts and matters most.


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