How to Give the Perfect Gift

“‘Tis Better to Receive than to Give”

I have heard people say that before.

You know what I say to that?

HORSE HOCKEY!!

If you have learned anything about me at all, then you realize that I believe that "giving" is the best way to be selfish. (If you haven't learned that about me, I will soon be adding an article about why it is better to give than to receive)

This also applies to gift giving. One of the greatest ways you can make yourself feel GREAT is to make somebody else’s day. It is even MORE fabulous when it’s THEIR special day (or A special time in their life, ie., anniversaries, holidays, or Tuesday).

I love to be clever with my gift giving!!

I HATE to give a gift that has no purpose or meaning or “life” to it!! One Christmas season, I was swamped. I bought a gift with no forethought of meaning or importance for a friend. When I presented the gift, I felt awful. My friend had put a lot of thought and love into what she had given me, and the thing I gave her felt “lifeless” and “flat!!” She felt it, too. The next year, I was very elaborate in my gift to her…but then her gift to me was pretty generic. We never said anything about these feelings, but we knew they were there.

Ever since then, our gifts to each other have been personal and perfect because of the cleverness of them.

I”ll give you an example of GREAT gift giving, and then I’ll give you hints, clues, and tricks that will let you know how you can be more shrewd in your “goodie granting” enterprises.


My daughter, Nerissa, knows that I love the murder mystery play called “10 Little Indians” by Agatha Christy. I was in the play in high school and when she was 16 years old, Nerissa and I went to see a production of it at a local playhouse!!

That next Christmas, she gave me the best gifts all “themed” around “10 Little Indians.”

I”ll give you a brief premise of the play so you’ll understand and appreciate the gifts she gave me: An unknown host invites 10 people to spend a weekend on an island. The fireplace hearth has 10 small Indian statues on it with an ominous poem about how each Indian dies. Soon the people on the island start to die in the same way that the poem says the Indian boys die!!

Nerissa had a huge gift bag with tons of tissue sticking out of it and a card with a little poem on it…(a poem she had written):

Ten little Indian boys went out to play
But tragedy came to each one that day.

I mapped out their follies and then came to find-
Each disaster really was one of a kind

So that you don’t meet the same fates of these boys,
I’m giving you gifts that may seem like toys

Each present has been chosen with care
So that you might survive, you’ll now be prepared

Just be sure to open them in sequence, you see-
Do start with 10, please do not start with 3.

Be sure to enjoy yourself and you will succeed.
Now enough of this horrible poem, please proceed.

By this point…already…I was so excited, I could hardly stand it…I dug around the bag until I found the present marked #10. (Note: each gift had the original poem that represented the number of each Indian boy…thus the first one said):

Ten little Indian boys went out to dine:
One choked his little self and then there were nine.

I opened up the gift…it was a jar of CHOKED-Cherry jam…Wow!! This is going to be fun!!

Nine little Indian boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.

An Alarm Clock!!

Eight little Indian boys traveling in Devon;
One got left behind and then there were seven.

A 1969 Ford Mustang (by Hot Wheels)!!

Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in half and then there were six.

A Black and Decker durable-1 ½-cup-bowl-with-a-stay-sharp-blade-for-chopping-or-mincing-your-favorite-ingredients One-Touch Chopper HC306!!

Six little Indian boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Of course, a bottle of pure 100% honey!!

Five little Indian boys going in for law;
One got in chancery and then there were four.

(In England, that poem rhymes. ”In chancery,” by the way, means in litigation in the Chancellor’s court.) For this one, my daughter got me a pair of real hand-cuffs…how many daughters trust their father’s enough to get them a pair of real hand-cuffs?!!

Four little Indian boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

Get this; she gave me a Red Lobster gift card!!

Three little Indian boys walking in a zoo;
A big bear hugged one, and then there were two.

A giant teddy bear wearing a tuxedo…perfect!! (My wife pointed out the other day that, of all the stuffed animals that we have, this teddy bear is the biggest of them all!!)

Two little Indian boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.

You guessed it, Sun Tan Lotion!! (A good thing, too, since I burn easily!)

One little Indian boy left all alone;
He went and hanged himself and then there were none.

She found a handheld video game of Hangman and that was the last gift!!

I was jumping out of my skin because of the thought, the heart, and the time that she put into these gifts. Could I have a more perfect child? I don’t think so!!

(Side note: At one point she asked me what I was going to name my big teddy bear. Without hesitation I answered, William Henry Blore. That’s the name of the character that got killed by a bear in the play…AAAAAAAAAAND…it was the part that I played in high school.)


Remember these things when you are giving gifts…

  1. Make sure the gift is something that you and the recipient can relate to (see 10 Little Indians example above)

  2. If you are going to do a theme, every gift should fit into the theme

    a. For the most part, you can figure out a way for anything to fit into any theme. One time, for my wife’s birthday, I gave her the theme of “See Spot”…I made her a little book that looked like the “Dick and Jane” series, only everything had to do with the dog, Spot!

    —–i. See Spot mess. Mess Spot, mess!! (My wife’s favorite meal is barbecue anything, and that’s what I made for her)

    —–ii. See Spot change…hold that change, Spot!! (A new purse)

    —–iii. See Spot go. Go Spot, go!! (A spot remover for rugs…I know it’s not very romantic, but she has always wanted one)

    —–iv. See Spot spot sea…now Spot is tranquil. (La piece de resistance…a very expensive telescope!! My wife loves the night sky, and especially the moon [we actually own an acre of the moon on the Sea of Tranquility] and now we can look at it up close)I haven’t mentioned everything that I gave to her for her “Spot” birthday, but you get the gist…I made everything fit into the “Spot” theme!!

    b. Part of the secret of doing themes is taking the main gift and basing the theme around it…although sometimes you can find a common thread of a theme with all the gifts that you have gotten.

    c. Once you have the theme, figure out a clever way to present the theme, i.e., a booklet, a poem, a scavenger hunt, a puzzle, clues, music, etc…which leads us to the next section:

  3. Presentation is everything!! If you only have one gift, then you can’t do a theme…but you can impress the heck out of whoever is receiving the gift by how you give it to them, or by how it looks when you give it to them!! On a larger scale, I’ve used billboards to present a present…animals, announcements at major sporting events, entertainers/performers, and modes of transportation.

  4. A couple more things about giving just one gift. The only time you should give someone a CD, or DVD, or book, is, 1) if it is something that holds a special meaning for BOTH of you, 2) if you created it yourself, or 3) if you are sure that they can’t live without it (as in, it’s the only they want in their life). Otherwise, as a friend of mine puts it, “it’s just plastic.”

  5. Also, there is really no need for it to be expensive as long as your put your heart/soul/blood/sweat/tears into it. For the most part, it IS the thought that counts.

  6. There are people out there who act unappreciative at almost any gift that is given them. Give it to them anyway. Don’t let their seemingly apathetic attitude dampen your spirits…you did what you came to do, not expecting anything in return. In the end the seed will be planted and you will walk away from it a better person!!

  7. That being said, “Do NOT give them something that will embarrass them. And do NOT give them something that they will not use, enjoy, or like!” It doesn’t matter how much time and effort you put into a gift, if it doesn’t gel with the gift givee, then you will have every right NOT to be appreciated.

2 Examples:

  • If you ever saw the movie “A Christmas Story,” you know that the best gift for Ralphie was “an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!”…and the worst gift was a homemade pair of pink pajamas (basically a rabbit costume) made by his aunt.

  • I know of a mother and father who got their son a “themed” gift of nicotine patches, an electronic cigarette, and appointments with a psychiatrist who specializes in helping people to stop smoking. The son did not want to quit. In fact, this “gift” made him want to NEVER stop smoking!

So be careful and thoughtful about what you give…that will be part of the gift’s charm!


That’s it for now…have fun and be happy in your gift giving!! If you learned anything from this article today, then THAT is MY gift to you!!


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S. Frank Stringham

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