Thoughtfulness Is The Greatest Gift Of All

Christmas is just a few short days away! Unless you’re a child, of course. In that case, each of the days leading up to Santa’s arrival feels like its own separate eternity.

For many reasons, the holidays are a magical time of year. There’s the decorating of the Christmas tree, baking Christmas cookies, parties with friends and colleagues, playlists, hideous sweaters, and, of course, presents. Roughly seventy-two hours from the time our Friday Brief email arrives in your inbox, kids will leap out of bed and rush to the foot of the Christmas tree to see how much loot awaits them. And, approximately 5 minutes later, it will all be over.

Speaking of presents, spending on Christmas has risen dramatically over the last twenty years. In 2004, Americans’ spent $416B on Christmas presents; last year $936B was spent. To put that into context, Christmas spending has doubled in two decades while the average price of a gallon of milk has risen 60% and the price of a carton of eggs has increased 35%. The stuff we buy is getting a bit more expensive, but not enough to explain the increase. It seems we’re just buying more stuff.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this (unless of course you’re going into debt to do it). But, I want to share two recent “gifts” I received that reminded me of the best kind to give.

I was given the first over Thanksgiving when we were in Savannah visiting my mom, dad, and older brother. Savannah is a wonderful place to spend Thanksgiving, and in the three years my parents have lived there we have established a few traditions. One of those traditions is playing the classic game Duck on a Rock. (James Naismith’s inspiration for basketball!)

This year, on the last day of our visit, we went to Forsyth Park to play. After about 45 minutes we started packing up our things, and as we were doing this, a young woman who had been sitting about 50 feet away approached us. When she got close enough, she handed us a piece of paper and said, “I noticed you were getting ready to leave and before you did, I wanted to give you this. I painted it for you”:

I’ll be the first to say I have no idea if this is a “good” painting or not. I think it’s good, in fact, I think it’s great, and find it hard to believe anyone can create something this beautiful in such a short amount of time. But, what makes this painting such a treasure is how thoughtful it is. A young woman saw a family having fun and thought it might be a memory they wanted to be able to look back on.

The second story revolves around the last 30 seconds of Jack’s very first basketball season (my first as a coach). The team wasn’t having a great year, but Jack improved every time he stepped on the court; I could see the game slowing down for him. But, despite his best efforts, he hadn’t scored all year. His attitude and effort never changed, but I knew he wanted to feel what is was like to make a basket.

In our last game, we had the lead and the ball with 30 seconds left, and my assistant coach, Jeff, walked up to me and said “We’re getting Jack a bucket!” Before I could react he signaled for a timeout and called the team over to diagram a play. “Jack, you stand here. Ty, get the ball. Drive right to here. Jack’s defender will help. Pass the ball to Jack, and Jack, you’re gonna score!” The team was pumped, Jack was excited, and I was a nervous wreck.

By no small miracle, everyone did exactly what Jeff told them to do (a humbling indication he should have been head coach!) and Ty made a beautiful pass to Jack. He caught it about 8 feet from the hoop and, with about 10 seconds left in the game, put up a shot that hit nothing but net. The game ended, the team celebrated, and Jack ran over and gave me a big hug.

What Jeff did was a little thing, he may not even remember it, but that someone would be so thoughtful towards my son and me . . . it’s a kindness words can’t explain. He gave me a memory I will never forget.

Opening presents on Christmas morning is great, and giving presents this time of year is even greater. But, as the young woman in Savannah and Jeff recently reminded me, the greatest gifts don’t need to be bought and wrapped up, and they don’t need to be given only at Christmas. With some thoughtfulness, our time, and our talents, we can give gifts that mean so much more anytime we want.

All of us at Beacon Wealthcare wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


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Ryan Smith
[email protected]

Born and raised on the North Shore of Massachusetts, I moved to Raleigh in 2011 to marry my wife, Emily. We have two kids, Jack and Gwen, a golden retriever named Olly, and are members of Church of the Apostles. I have been a Financial Advisor since 2005 and earned a Master’s of Science in Financial Planning from Bentley University in 2007. I became a CFP® professional in 2009, a Retirement Income Certified Professional® in 2015, and a Certified Tax Specialist™ in 2023.