I'm not talking about the gifts we feel obliged to give: the Christmas gifts, the birthday gifts, the wedding and baby shower gifts. Don't get me wrong, those are all lovely gifts and eminently worth giving. But they are, in one sense or another, required of us.
I'm talking about gifts that are purely elective. No occasion needed, with nothing expected in return. Gifts you give simply because you feel like it — for the sheer pleasure of being able to give someone something that will bring them joy.
The gifts I mean don't have to be big or showy. Some exceptionally excellent gifts aren't even material objects. For example, you can give gifts of time, work, experiences, or even trust. And some material gifts don't cost money. For example, you can give things you've treasured to others so that they have the opportunity to treasure them. (I have many friends and family members who have gifted me the literal shirts off their back. Molly L., I'll never forget how I loved that yellow butterfly/pony t-shirt. Amy N., I wore your purple dress again just this past Monday. Dom C., John still wears that Nuggets hoodie all the freaking time. I could go on.)
Sometimes the smallest, most unexpected gifts are the best ones. An extra cookie you bring back for a coworker. A hilarious novelty pen that made you think of them. A flower. A joke you thought they'd like. A photograph where they look amazing. Something you wrote for them. Doing the dishes while they're not looking. Volunteering to go to the grocery store for something they said they needed.
Why am I telling you to give gifts? Practicing the art of giving helps us actively remember the people around us, and to actively think about how we can make small contributions that add to their lives. To think of them, period.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow, which generally means the opportunity to spend time with some of the people we love most. I hereby issue a challenge: choose one person you know you'll see tomorrow, and come up with a small, unexpected gift you can give them. It's ThanksGIVING, y'all. It will feel good. (Much better than how you'll feel after you've again overstuffed yourself.)