When we give our time we give our lives. It's the foundation of these fifteen special gifts. You may not have previously thought of them as gifts, but they are. If you look upon them in this way you'll be much more likely give them and be a blessing to others.

1. The Gift of Personal Communication
How do you feel when someone contacts you out of the blue for the sole purpose of reminding you that you're a treasured friend? You feel the same way everyone else does-special, loved, appreciated. And you can brighten someone else's life any day of the week. This can be done with a phone call, a handwritten note, or an e-mail, and none take more than a few minutes.

2. The Gift of Quotations
I've never met anyone who doesn't appreciate a good quotation. That's why I put so many of them in my books-they're a gift to my readers, especially those who have expressed appreciation for them. The beauty of a good quotation is that it's brief, to the point, full of wisdom and advice, and a boost for the spirit. Find them, collect them, and share them. It's a simple way of giving someone a lift.

3. The Gift of a Good Recommendation
When you make a great discovery, one that in some way enriches your life, share it with others. It could be a book (like this one, I hope), a play, a movie, a restaurant, a recipe, an article, a product, a service, a TV program, or a music CD. When you make these kinds of recommendations, you're really saying, "This brought some joy to my life. I want it to do the same for you."

4. The Gift of a Helping Hand
All of us appreciate it when someone not only offers to help, but actually follows through. We're all faced with tasks-some big, some small; some important, some trivial; some requiring skill, some menial. Whatever it is, it always goes better with the help of another person. Whether on the job, at home, in school, or out socially, the gift of help is always appreciated.

5. The Gift of Laughter
I've never met anyone who didn't like to laugh. It's one of the happiest and most healthy activities known to the human race. Victor Borge said, "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." It's also a life enhancer and a great gift, one that can be given easily and often. Don't let those funny jokes, stories, bloopers, signs, and one-liners fade away. Share them with others.

6. The Gift of Listening
There are many times when someone close to us wants only one thing-our full and undivided attention. Listening intently to another person, with our eyes and with our hearts, silently says, "What you have to say, and the feelings behind your words, are important. Right now this is the best gift I can give you. I value our friendship."

7. The Gift of an Invitation
I regard all invitations, whether to a major event, a wedding, a party, a sporting event, or lunch with a friend, as special gifts. Whenever we ask someone to join us, we're really saying, "I want you to be there. Your company is cherished. You have something good to offer." We all want to be included, to be asked to join in, for a simple reason-sharing experiences with other people is one of the greatest joys of life.

Affection, forgiveness, good advice and more...

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  • 8. The Gift of Physical Affection
    How do you feel when someone gives you a hug, a warm handshake, a friendly pat on the back, a kiss on the cheek, an affectionate touch? If you're a normal, red-blooded, breathing, living human being, you feel great. Alan Loy McGinnis, an esteemed counselor and author, advises, "Use your body to demonstrate warmth." With the right people and in the proper setting, that's exactly what acts of fondness do. Give this gift of affection liberally.

    9. The Gift of Appreciation

    When someone does something thoughtful for us, regardless of its nature, it's a gift. We can give another gift in return simply by expressing our appreciation. The great psychologist and philosopher William James said, "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated." We can satisfy that craving, and give a gift, every time we express our appreciation.

    10. The Gift of Good Advice
    Not everyone asks for it or wants it, but there are times when good advice is the greatest gift of all. The reason is that it can change lives. Countless accomplished people throughout history have cited good advice as the key to their success. When the opportunity is there and the other person is willing to listen, never hesitate to give this precious gift.

    11. The Gift of Encouragement
    One of the greatest things you can do for another person is give encouragement. The word means, literally, to give courage. Sometimes it's all a person needs to get started on something important. History is full of stories about people who achieved great things because of someone else's encouragement.

    12. The Gift of Patience
    This is actually a dual gift, because patience always comes as the result of understanding. That's what we most want from other people, especially those closest to us. We especially need their patience and understanding when we're not at our best. They're gifts that enrich relationships by allowing them to grow. We can give the same gift to our family members, friends, and colleagues.

    13. The Gift of Empathy
    Any time we can share feelings with another person, whether they're of sorrow or joy, we give a treasured gift. When Cathy's dad died unexpectedly in his midfifties some years ago, she experienced both shock and loss. The greatest comfort she received was from people who had also lost a parent under similar circumstances. They were able to identify with her, understand what she was going through, offer hope, and let her know they were there for her.

    14. The Gift of Forgiveness
    This is the ultimate win-win gift. Both the giver and the receiver get something of great value-healing. We're all in need of it because we've all been hurt and offended by someone else. It makes it easier to forgive them when we remind ourselves that we've also caused pain in others. Forgiveness releases us from unnecessary negative emotions and allows us to move on to better things.

    15. The Gift of Prayer
    It was not a coincidence that I received an e-mail, a phone call, and a handwritten note about prayer while writing this chapter. Each one was from a dear friend who was not only thinking about me but praying for me. What made the gift even more special was that I hadn't asked for the prayers. Since I look upon prayer-communication with God-as the highest activity of which a human being is capable, and because I know the sincerity of these people, their gifts became lasting treasures.

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