The holidays are here, which means that gifts are on everyone's minds.
Sure, you're probably dying to know what your friends and family got you (we hope it's what you've wanted all year). However, when it comes down to the actual gift exchange, you might find that giving leaves you feeling better than receiving.
Whether you're gifting jewelry to your wife, a bag of Hershey's Kisses to a work colleague, or a sweater covered in dachshunds that your friend will show off at every holiday party this year, there's just something about giving that warms all of our hearts.
In order to prove this theory, we asked real people about a time in their life when giving a gift was better than anything they could have found under the tree. Take a second to grab a tissue before you read these responses.
1. Tracey Carnazzo calls her best friend Noelle her "soulmate." For her, there was no greater gift than buying the gown the woman she loves most would be married in.
Tracey and Noelle. Photo courtesy of Tracey Carnazzo.
"Noelle's been my best friend for over 20 years," says Carnazzo. The pair, who live in New York, do everything together — from traveling to hosting a popular podcast. When Noelle's mother couldn't make it wedding dress shopping with her daughter, Carnazzo (who also served double duty as both officiant and maid of honor) took the reins.
"She was planning on buying the dress herself," explains Carnazzo, "but your mom is supposed to buy your dress! I bought it for her because I am her 'other mom,' even though she's three years older than I am."
"It made her feel loved and taken care of. It made me feel great to be able to give her something that she really deserves. Seeing her walk down the aisle in it was better than any gift I’ve ever received. I really love her. To see her happy is when I'm truly happy."
2. David Pardo said 'thank you' to a mentor who had helped him through so much.
Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash.
"I had a mentor who, when my life was difficult, spent a couple years effectively playing my therapist by phone every week or two, even though he was 1000s of miles away," writes Pardo in an email. His mentor was training to be a counselor, but wasn't comfortable accepting anything in return for his guidance. That didn't stop Pardo from repaying him down the road, though.
"About 4 years after we last spoke, my finances improved along with my mental state, [so] I gave him $1000 as a bit of a start on paying him back," he continues. "He'd been living in his van while finishing his PhD. A divorce while in grad school wrecked his finances. He didn't have a place for his son to live with him."
"After getting the money, he was able to get a place where he could live with his young kid. Being able to fix the thing that is most hurting someone brings a special type of satisfaction."
3. Martha Miller gave a memory that will endure for more than a lifetime.
Photo courtesy of Martha Miller.
"My father-in-law, Hubert, was turning 80 right before Christmas and certainly didn't need a single thing," writes Miller in an email. "I was trying to think of something meaningful we could give him and it finally struck me. He waited a very long time to become a grandfather and was thrilled when two grandsons were born just six weeks apart."
"I got the idea of giving him a photo shoot with them as a present. My sister-in-law and I took Hubert and our boys dressed in Notre Dame jerseys Grandpa had given them for the photo session the next week. My father-in-law wanted several sets of pictures so he could send them to his six brothers and sisters."
"When Grandpa passed away at 88, my son, then 10 years old, spoke at the funeral. He said his favorite memory of Grandpa was having the picture taken with his cousin and Grandpa in the jerseys Grandpa had given them. I tear up just thinking about it. We have the picture placed prominently in my son's room so he will be reminded of his wonderful Grandpa who loved him dearly and the fun time he had with Grandpa and his cousin. I love that this present was so meaningful to Grandpa, and that it is still bringing joy to us and to our son."
4. For Lisa Umar, bringing all of her mom's friends together for her birthday showed her that there's no better gift than making someone happy.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Umar.
"I was living in Washington, D.C. at the time while my family lived in Phoenix," Umar says. "For my mom's birthday, I decided to plan her a surprise party. I managed to track down a bunch of her friends, another friend donated their house for the evening and I sent out printed invitations and everything."
"I also flew home the day before so I could help set up the party and surprise her. She was totally surprised and cried a lot. I may have cried a little too. It felt awesome to pull the entire thing off as a complete surprise, and I was able to get so many of her friends all together in one room.
"There's really no better feeling than making someone that happy. Then, of course, she's reminded me every single year that no gift I ever give her will ever top it. Worth it!"
5. Rachel Toburen gave her mother a very different gift — one of a heartwarming companion.
Photo of Petal via Rachel Toburen.
"I fostered a litter of puppies, and my mom (two time zones away) fell in love with one," says Toburen. "She was trying to figure out some way to adopt the puppy, but coming to Colorado wasn't a possibility."
"To surprise her, we paid Petal's adoption fee, and flew to Michigan to deliver a 12-week-old puppy to my mom for Mother's Day. We told her about it in advance so she would be prepared and have her house ready. It was a lot of work on our end, but seeing my mom fall in love with this puppy from across the country, and then getting to have her...that was pretty awesome."
6. Jess Keegin gave a child the gift of education.
Photo courtesy of Jess Keegin.
"I started sponsoring Tasila through Children International in 2012 when she was five years old," writes Keegin. "Zambian children typically start school when they're seven, but when I got Tasila's family report at age eight, it said she didn't attend school because her family (which consists of a single mother — her father is deceased — as well as four other siblings) can't afford it."
"I immediately knew I was going to change that, so I reached out to Children International to see what the costs would be to get her in school. She started school in January of 2014."
"She went from a child who looked constantly grumpy and unhappy to one whose smile could light up a room. When I asked CI what her school costs would be for 2017, I received a note that said she was 1st in her class."
"Her education will cost $171 in 2019. It's the best money I'll spend all year."
7. And David Pemberton proves that you can make people feel loved and special no matter how much or how little you spend.
Comic courtesy of David Pemberton.
"When I lived in Denver, I had absolutely no money, and my parents had to scrape together what they could to buy me a ticket back home to Tennessee for the holidays," says Pemberton.
"I have a big family — my present list that year was in the teens — and I knew that I wouldn't be able to buy anyone anything. So I got a ream of computer paper, some pencils, and a few sharpies from the office and I drew a one-page comic for everyone in my family. Each comic was inspired by my favorite memory with them. I bought several $1 frames from the local Goodwill to frame them."
"That year, as we all sat around to open gifts, it was always the comics that made people cry. And I mean everyone cried. Why does that make it better than receiving a gift? Well, I think it's because it let me know that everyone cherished these memories just as much as I did."