The new year is in full swing, and Christmas 2018 already feels like a distant memory. It was certainly one to remember, though. For me and Katherine, it was our first Christmas as a married couple, as well as our first Christmas in our new house. In the midst of our attempts to celebrate with each and every one of our loved ones, we took a little time just to ourselves on Christmas morning to enjoy one another and, of course, to exchange gifts.
To me, the perfect gift exists at the intersection of two categories: (1) things I really like and (2) things I would never buy for myself. Any item that checks both of those boxes is sure to inspire delight when I open it. I’m happy to report that my wife did an exceptional job of finding gifts that fell into those categories this year. Among other things, she gave me two smart light switches for our house.
You might be thinking, “That sounds like the nerdiest gift in the world,” and you would be correct. It is the nerdiest gift in the world! But to be honest, there’s nothing I could have wanted more. Ever since we started building the house, Katherine has had to patiently endure my rants and daydreams about turning it into a smart house, one we can automate and control with our voices. As you can imagine, overpriced wifi-enabled appliances are not at the top of our priority list right now, so when I unwrapped them on Christmas morning, I beamed like a child who had just opened a new toy.
I thought I had just received the greatest gift in the world. And it was awesome, to be sure. I would soon learn, though, that there is a gift greater than a smart switch, even for someone like me.
After a few days of gathering supplies for the project, I set to work on installing my brand new smart switches. I decided to put them out in the garage so that I could automate our garage lights to come on at sunset. That way, we’d never come home to a dark house. I put on my headlamp and grabbed my trusty drill (both gifts, by the way), and I got to work.
It may seem silly, but it’s hard to express the joy I felt while undergoing that project. Taking apart a piece of the house—our house—in order to understand it and make it better felt so satisfying. When I put it all back together, there was that moment of truth when I found out if my work had paid off. I flipped the breaker on, tapped the switch, and the light worked. I was overjoyed! I ran inside to tell my wife the good news and to show her the fact that I could now control our garage lights with Siri. Like I said, it sounds ridiculous from the outside, but from my point-of-view, it was exhilarating.
Using my own hands, tools, and skills, I was able to take our home and improve it. I was able to leave my mark on it in a way that I can see each and every day. I was able to enjoy the fruit of my labor in a simple light bulb being lit. And when it was all said and done, I was able to be proud of the work I’d done to make my home a better place for my family.
As happy as the gadgets made me on Christmas morning, nothing can replace the feeling I got from actually putting them to use, seeing the effect they had, and knowing that I had made it happen. I like to think that when my wife wrapped those boxes, she knew she wasn’t just giving me a new toy; she was giving me an opportunity to do something truly productive and feel accomplished in that. And that really is the best gift she could have given me.
Often, we focus on providing our friends, family members, and loved ones with the things they want rather than the things that truly feed their souls. Material gifts are nice and can be very meaningful. I would never try to discount them. But they’re not the most important things in life, and they’re not the best gifts we can give.
Accomplishment. Fulfillment. Encouragement. These are the greatest gifts that we can give one another, and we can do so in the most creative of ways. Maybe it comes disguised as a nerdy gadget, or maybe it’s as simple as a kind word. Only you can look past the surface and see what might touch someone you love. But take it from someone who’s recently been on the receiving end of such a gift: There truly is no better way to show someone you care.
I’m so thankful for the amazing gift that was given to me, and it is my goal to share the same sorts of gifts with my loved ones. Because we can all do something to encourage and enrich those around us today. Everyone enjoys a gift like that. How can you share one today?