Tag Archives: gifts

sharing delight

Nancy and I got to spend a night at the Potawatomi Inn. If we had to pick a place that is “our” place, that’s it. We’ve been there half a dozen times across the years.

We were sitting at supper Friday night when Nancy saw someone looking toward us. Pam came carrying a gift certificate. A friend had seen where Nancy and I were staying. This friend had called the Inn and had a certificate delivered to us while we were still eating.

Pam, the desk manager who had taken the call came herself. She stood and talked for a minute…and then sat down. We chatted. She listened to us talk about the friendship. She was interested in the idea of someone reaching out that way. She was interested in how much we like the Inn. I think she was surprised enough by the concept that she wanted the event to last a bit longer.

This could be about the generosity of my friend. But it isn’t. At least not about the generosity to us.

In addition to the food for us, the phone call gave Pam an opportunity to be part of a conspiracy of delight. And she rose to the occasion.

How often to you allow other people to carry good news? How often do you build connections of celebrations?

As I was writing, I remembered a time I did this.

Five years ago, I wanted to do something fun for Nancy for our anniversary. I got a picture of the flowers that she had used to decorate for our wedding, a picture of flowers in the backseat of her car. I took it to a florist that I knew. I said, “I would love a basket that has all of these flowers, but I don’t even know what they are called.”

Somehow, that request captured Barbara’s attention. She figured out what the plants were, ordered what she needed, and prepared a basket. As much as Nancy and I enjoyed the flowers, I think we enjoyed Barbara’s response to this project even more.

This week, plan a small gift for a friend or spouse or child. Enlist the help of other people to pull it off. Ask someone who lives in a different state to mail the card for you so the postmark of the anonymous card is completely unexpected. Order a set of cards from someone you met online. Ask your friend’s coworker to make a deliver in the middle of a meeting.

And do it this week, when there are no holidays to make it obligatory.

And then let us know how it turned out.


(And, by the way, thanks for the dinner. And breakfast.)


something to stand on – generosity 2

Saturday, I used an antique. Last week, I used it, too. (That is, if nearly 50 years old counts as antique.)

When I was four or five, my dad used some plywood and made a stool. He drilled fingerholes in the top and a larger hole at either end. If I remember right, I probably played more with the little “wheels” that came out of the holes than I appreciated the stool.

I have no idea where the wheels ended up, but I know exactly where the stool is. It has been several different colors. It has lived in three apartments and five houses. It is now in the downstairs bathroom, except when it is in the garage or the living room or wherever else I need a 12″ boost. Saturday I used it while installing a track for new folding doors. I used it in the garage to plug an extension cord in an overhead outlet.

Dad made other stools for my sisters and our children. They are all fancier, smoother, stained rather than painted. Mine was born of utility more than woodcraft, though the cutouts and the design and the durability suggest that dad was putting into it the basics he learned as an architecture major.

What he gave me in that stool is something simple and solid to stand on. He has given much since then. One of my parents’ primary ways of saying “I love you” is with gifts…small (and sometimes not small) tangible objects. But I think that of everything I’ve gotten, it all is summed up in that stool.

A simple gift to a young child. Something to stand on.

I’m curious. What useful gift were you given as a child that has followed you to adulthood?


This post is part of Robert Hruzek’s group-writing project.

Dental assisting

I got a crown yesterday. A filling had cracked and it was time to fix it. A couple weeks before I had the bad part done (with incredible amounts of novocaine). This appointment was merely for putting the $700 piece of metal in my mouth.

I walked in and sat down. The dental assistant said, “You have an iPod, don’t you?”

I do. She knows because it is my own pain reliever. I discovered that if I play David Crowder as loud as possible through the ear buds, I can’t hear the drill.

I told her that I did. She asked about charging it. She said that she had gotten the new iPod Skip. (She meant Shuffle). She tried to charge it at home but it kept flashing red. She brought it in to the office but wasn’t sure it was working. I asked where it was. We went to the front desk. She told me she had called tech support who said she needed to stop it before unplugging it. We stopped it. We unplugged it. I asked her about directions. It hadn’t come with any that she remembered. She hadn’t downloaded iTunes. I told her to start there when she got home.

We went back to the chair. I sat down and the dentist came and put the crown on. And I laughed at the fact that I was dental assisting.

I didn’t help much, I’m sure. I can figure out how to do things in the moment. I have an iPod mini (thank you again, Michael). I can run it, I can load songs, I’m listening to Yo Yo Ma right now. However, I don’t have the manual memorized and I have never used the new Shuffle. I can’t tell you how to do the installation nearly as well as I can show you. I can’t tell you all the steps nearly as well as I can help you think through the questions.

And that is the answer, for me, to yesterday’s question. I quoted Patrick Lencioni who has a character in a business fable ask “What is the one thing I do that really matters to the firm”. His character actually identified four things that he had to do as the CEO of a consulting firm: hiring an effective team; providing organization clarity; communicating that clarity; putting in place human systems to continue the process.

The point of the exercise is to identify what you are made to do, equipped to do, gifted to do, shaped to do. Having discovered that one or four things, the challenge is to learn how can you strip away the rest of the activities to focus on that thing. Because if you do that one thing well, even if you don’t get to other activities, you are invaluable to the firm.

For me, that one thing is helping people understand. I am a translator, not of languages, but of ideas. I can find metaphors that can illustrate. I can find threads of meaning. I can create pictures. I do it here all the time.

The danger for me is that I also like to do as part of that helping. I can get caught up in producing the video, in fixing the technology, in sorting through the details.

Here’s why that’s a danger: if I can help someone else understand, then they can do the fixing and I can help someone else understand something else.

I offer that understanding of me only to help you understand the point of the post yesterday.

What are you built to bring to the table, better than anyone else at your table?

Don’t get falsely modest. You know that you are better at gracious truth-telling. You know that you are capable of handling chaos that would drive others over the edge. You know that you can handle details. You can create powerful word pictures. You can synthesize ideas. You can encourage. You can love unlovable people. You can write in 5 words of poetry what other people spend essays to accomplish dimly.

And you are likely the only person with that one thing at your table. There are other poets, but not in your house. There are other synthesizers, but not in your firm. There are other detail people, but they are in other departments or churches or universes.

So what is the one thing or the three things?

And what is it that you get caught in, that keeps you from that one thing or those four things?

And what would it do for your firm or family or friends if you put your energy into doing your one thing or four things as well as you possibly can?

I wish I could have helped the dental assistant more. But I think I helped her understand.

I hope I helped you.

So, let’s try again. What’s are your one or two or four things?


This marks my 575th post. When I started blogging, I read that someone said you couldn’t talk about staying power as a blogger until you had 500 posts. By now, that number is probably higher. Ah well.

I’m just grateful you come by. And have contributed to the more than 1000 comments.

If you haven’t subscribe, you can subscribe to this blog for free by clicking here.