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Gifts that Give
by Jim Stovall


This time of year, we all inevitably begin thinking about all of the people on our holiday gift lists. Unfortunately, this process for most people has gotten very far removed from what should be the reason for the season.

There are gifts that impress others with how much they must have cost. There are gifts that fill an obligation because you anticipate receiving a gift from someone else, so you must get them something. There are practical gifts, special gifts, sentimental gifts, meaningful gifts, but the most important gifts of all are gifts that keep giving.

Think of the most significant gifts you have received in the past. Some of them may have been expensive while others were not. Some were personal while others may have been practical. Some may have been totally unique while others were mainstream. Undoubtedly, what makes them significant is that, somehow, they continue to contribute to your growth as a person or the quality of your life.

One of the greatest gifts I have ever received was an idea that culminated in a book entitled "The Ultimate Gift." Although I have written around a dozen books, this one remains special. It has been reprinted a number of times here in the United States and is selling throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. It has been translated into many, many languages and seems to strike a chord with all kinds of people from various countries and cultures around the world.

"The Ultimate Gift" is the story of what happens when one of the richest men in the world dies and leaves his great nephew something other than money, property, or stocks and bonds. Instead, he leaves this particular young man with The Ultimate Gift. That gift, and the book that tells its story, has been a gift to me because it has continued to contribute to so many people's lives around the world. I was particularly gratified when Hallmark gift stores decided to release a special gift edition of "The Ultimate Gift" for this holiday season.

Once again, one of the greatest gifts I have received, is the ability to give this story of The Ultimate Gift to many more people, knowing that it will continue to keep giving for years to come. Today, as you think about the special people in your life, think about what you can give them that will keep giving far into the future.

The Gift of Work

Most of us recently took a day out of our busy schedules to observe Labor Day. For the majority of people across the country, Labor Day represents the last long weekend of summer. It's a time to take one more trip to the beach, the lake, or our favorite camping spot. I thought this would be a good opportunity for us to take a quick look at this thing we call "work."

Other than our name, there is nothing that defines us more in our society than our work. When we meet a stranger, after the obligatory exchange of names, the most comfortable question and topic of conversation is work. "What do you do?" Not only do others define us by our work, we, indeed, define ourselves.

The late, great George Burns once said, "If you love your job, you'll never work a day in your life." The reason Mr. Burns lived and worked the better part of a full century was because it was obvious he loved his work. When you think about our hectic pace and packed schedules, it is quite likely that you spend much more time with the people on your job than you spend with your family. If we are going to define ourselves by our work, and have those around us identify us by our profession, and spend more time working than we do with the people we love, wouldn't it seem to be critical that we choose the right career path?

If you do not find power, passion, and fulfillment in your daily work, it is time for you to start making plans for a change. Most of us, if we are truly honest, selected our career based on money considerations. This is a huge mistake. While I recognize the imperative nature of paying the bills, the top performers in every field of endeavor are very well compensated.

Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to create a life. The gift of work is just one of the 12 gifts featured in my new book The Ultimate Gift. The Ultimate Gift is available now in bookstores everywhere. I hope you will re-examine your career in light of the gift of work, and I hope you will re-examine your life in light of The Ultimate Gift.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Laughter

It has been said that laughter is good medicine. Our world is desperately in search of good medicine to heal recent wounds and current conflicts.

When you think of the good times in your life and the special people you have known, those precious memories that you can recall most likely involve laughter. There are some memories that are so strong that just recalling a certain time and place can cause you to smile or laugh, even years later. These times are what I call "making a deposit in your memory bank."

If you doubt the power of laughter, I would refer you to Norman Cousin's book "The Anatomy of an Illness." In this book, Cousins recounts his own story of overcoming a terminal disease through the power of laughter. It is not simply Pollyanna or pie in the sky, there are clinical, physiological benefits to laughter. But, more importantly, laughter improves the quality of the lives we live.

Kelly Morrison is the marketing director for my work on television, books, speaking engagements, and these columns. She is also a very talented singer and songwriter. The best song she has ever written, and one of the best that anyone has ever written, is entitled "Laugh a Little." The song is about two friends whose lives are taking them in separate directions. The parting advice is to always find a way to bring laughter and joy into every situation.

Find ways today to bring joy and laughter into your life and the lives of those around you. You will be healthier, happier, and a much more desirable person to be around. Particularly in times of stress, be sure to keep on hand: books, videos, and your ever-growing memory bank to give you an instant deposit of laughter and joy.

The Gift of Laughter is just one of the twelve gifts in my new book "The Ultimate Gift." I hope you will embrace each of the gifts and focus this week on bringing laughter into your world.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Money

Money is probably the most misunderstood commodity in our society. People today understand the price of everything and the value of nothing. There have been more conflicts, divorces, and disputes over money than anything else.

In order to begin to have healthy attitudes toward money, we must understand that it is nothing more or less than a tool or a vehicle. Money can get us what we want or take us where we want to go. Unless there is something you want or somewhere you wish to go, money has no value.

How would your life be different if money were no object? This is a difficult question to consider, because we seldom make any decisions that are not based upon money. This is a poor way to look at the world. Decide what is good or right or meaningful, and then worry about the money.

You may be interested to know there has never been a money shortage. There is, however, from time to time a creativity, service, or value shortage. Money is nothing more or less than a result of creating value in the lives of other people. If you will stop worrying about money and start worrying about creating value in the lives of those around you, you will have more money than you need. If you simply worry about money, you will never have enough. You will be like the foolish person standing in front of the stove saying, "Give me heat, and then I will give you wood."

The Gift of Money is just one of the twelve gifts featured in my new book The Ultimate Gift. The Ultimate Gift and The Gift of Money teach us that everything we need to live out our biggest dreams and our ultimate destiny has already been provided for us. I hope you will begin to utilize The Gift of Money and make money your servant instead of being a slave to it. I hope you will pick up a copy of The Ultimate Gift and begin to see your life unfold as the fulfillment of your biggest dreams and your ultimate destiny.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Love

Since the beginning of recorded history, human beings have struggled with the basic question, "Why are we here?" I'm not sure there is any perfect and final answer to this ongoing search for purpose and meaning.

The very best answer to the question, "Why are we here?" that I have heard comes from a treasured friend of mine, Debra Simon. Debra is the author and creator of a workbook and tape course entitled "Perseverance, Character, and Hope." In her tape course, Debra explains that we are here to "learn how to love." At first glance, this might seem to be an over-simplistic explanation, but when you really focus on it, you will understand that learning how to love encompasses every area of our daily lives.

Love is probably one of the most misused and overused words in our vocabulary. Many languages have multiple words to describe the various emotions that we lump into one four-letter word -- love. During the course of a day, you will hear people say: I love my children; I love hotdogs; and I love my new big screen TV. While all of these are legitimate emotions, they are certainly not the same; therefore, it is understandable why there is some confusion when we try to act out of love in our daily lives.

Think of people in your past who have most often demonstrated the ability to act out of love. It may be a grandparent, a special teacher, or a dear friend. It is easy for us to have warm, loving thoughts toward these people. The real challenge in learning to love is to react this same way in situations where we don't feel loving and with people who are far less lovable.

When people attack us out of ignorance, fear, or hostility, our initial reaction might be to respond in kind. Even if justified, our non-loving response will continue the destructive cycle; however, if we can learn how to love and always respond that way in every situation, we can create a new environment around ourselves, and we will find that other people will begin to respond to it in a spirit of love.

The Gift of Love is just one of the twelve gifts in my new book "The Ultimate Gift." I hope you will begin sharing the Gift of Love along with all of the gifts as you make today a special day.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Gratitude

An attitude of gratitude is essential to any lasting success. We must have the ability to look forward toward great triumphs, but, at the same time, look backward toward all of the people and events that have made success possible.

This week, I lost a dear friend of mine, Dr. Harold Paul. In addition to being an influential college professor, who gave me a passion for writing, Dr. Paul was a mentor of mine for 25 years. He had the unique ability to be both an encourager and a challenger at the same time. Every time in my life I reached a milestone, he would celebrate with me, but, he would also challenge me to even greater heights. He gave me an expectation of even greater possibilities in the future.

I am grateful for so many things in my life, and the passing of Dr. Harold Paul has prompted me to stay in that attitude of gratitude for the things and people that have made so much possible for me.

Think of the things and people who have made the good things in your life possible. Take some time to reflect on them and, where appropriate, to express your gratitude. No one among us stands alone. The success you enjoy today and the vision that you have for tomorrow only exists because you have been privileged to stand on the shoulders of giants.

Take this opportunity to express your gratitude and to dedicate yourself to being an impactful person in other people's lives as a tribute to those who have given so much to you.

The Gift of Gratitude is just one of the twelve gifts making up my latest book "The Ultimate Gift." I hope you will learn to give and receive gratitude as an integral part of success, and I hope you will invest some time and energy today into reflecting on and expressing your gratitude.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Giving

Recent world events have forever changed the way we live, the way we feel, and the way we think. We have seen the very worst of humanity. Evil deeds have altered each of us, but not all of the changes have been bad ones.

There has been an emerging culture of giving that has brought renewed hope to anyone who is a consistent observer of the human condition. People have given money in unprecedented amounts. They have given their time, effort, and energy as volunteers and, when nothing else would do, they have given their own blood to assist victims that, in most cases, were unknown to them.

At its core, giving affects the receiver by virtue of the gift itself; but giving affects the giver in a much deeper and more lasting way. In the aftermath of an act of giving, the receiver has a new gift and the knowledge that someone cares deeply; but the giver has a new identity. He or she now has feelings of abundance, benevolence, and a sense of being able to make a difference -- or at least communicate caring feelings.

Often, the greatest gifts are ones that cost very little or nothing at all. Just because something did not carry a sizeable price tag doesn't necessarily mean that it won't be treasured forever by the person who receives it.

You have heard it said that, "It's the thought that counts." This phrase is usually uttered after a gift has been given that may or may not be appropriate. In reality, whether it is the best gift ever or a useless trinket, it is, indeed, "The thought that counts."

A gift communicates that I thought about you, I care about you, and I wanted to share something with you. As you go through your day, find special and unique ways to give to those around you. It will show them how you feel, but more importantly, it will change the way you feel about yourself.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Dreams

Dreams are the stuff that make up our lives. We are either in the fortunate group of people who are living out our dreams, or we are those restless, wondering individuals who are living the proverbial lives of quiet desperation.

I am not talking about daydreams or fantasies. We all have those fleeting glimpses of ourselves paying center field for the New York Yankees or the Arizona Diamondbacks, as the case may be, in the final game of the World Series. I am, instead, talking about dreams as a future visualization of how our lives could be or should be.

As young people, we all had those things we wanted to be or do or have. They were the dreams of our youth -- the visualizations of our destiny. By the time we are an adult, functioning member of society, most of us have diminished our dreams or forgotten about them entirely.

Young people formulate their dreams as the choices among all the possibilities in the world. As we get older, we narrow our dreaming capacity to those things that we currently have the ability or the wherewithal to achieve. It is important to realize that the biggest dreams we ever had in our lives are still alive and well, and within the realm of possibility.

I always take the week between Christmas and the new year to reconnect with my dreams and goals. Often, throughout the year, it is hard to get away from the day-to-day rush and really think about the things that are important. We are so busy making a living we forget to create a life. The life we're living right now is not a practice game. This is the Super Bowl and the World Series and the Olympics all rolled up into one. If you do not feel that kind of power and passion each day of your life, this would be a good time to dust off those old dreams and find your unique and fulfilling place in this world.

The Gift of Dreams is just one of the twelve life gifts in my new book The Ultimate Gift. I hope you will begin to explore each of the gifts and embrace your life as The Ultimate Gift.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Learning

My new book "The Ultimate Gift" has just been released nationally. Each time I write a book or even one of these weekly columns, I am struck by the irony of the situation. As a blind person, myself, I realize that this column you are reading has been written by someone who can't read it -- or at least not in the way you do.

When I could read with my eyes -- just as you are doing at this moment -- I don't know that I ever read an entire book cover to cover. This is not something of which I am particularly proud; however, it is the truth. I had not yet come to understand The Gift of Learning. Now, as a totally blind person I read a book every day, thanks to the National Library for the Blind which provides books on tape and a high-speed tape recorder. Having read 365 books a year for the last 12 years, I have experienced a myriad of changes in my life and in my world.

The wisdom of the ages, the answer to any questions, the ability to be informed, entertained, and educated, is as close as your nearest bookstore or library. The greatest men and women of all times are available via books to share with you their greatest secrets.

Start a list of all the books you want to read. Keep updating the list constantly. When someone tells you about something they have read or you hear about a new book in the media, make a note of it. Your lifelong reading list will become a constant companion. You will always be adding new titles and marking off ones you have completed.

When I began to read consistently, I started to grow in every way. Prior to becoming a reader, the idea of authoring multiple books or even writing this weekly column seemed absurd. You will never know the hidden strength inside of you or the hidden treasures within books until you make an effort to become a reader.

In the beginning, like any new habit, it will seem awkward and difficult. After several weeks or months, you will find yourself quite anxious to get back to your reading each day. I hope you will enjoy my new book, "The Ultimate Gift", and many other titles throughout the rest of your life. Every day is an opportunity to grow and learn.

Today's the day!

The Gift of a Day

You may recall the old song lyric, "What a difference a day makes." Recent events on September 11 have reminded us all that one day can change our lives and our world forever. While there was nothing good about the tragedy that happened on September 11, we have all seen the goodness of humanity emerge in the aftermath of such evil deeds.

A day can transform everything that comes after it. If you will think of your past and the days that have been pivotal to bring you to where you are now, you might think of your wedding day, your graduation day, the day you started a new career, etc. Some of these pivotal days simply happen, and others we plan and work on for many years. In our society, we have come to call a "normal day" one in which nothing pivotal happens. However, it's important to note that if you are on the right course, pursuing the right destiny, these "normal days" are important.

Like me, you can probably recall an exciting basketball game coming down to the wire. In the last few minutes, the two teams battle back and forth and, in the final second, a shot goes in the basket to win the game. That shot will come to be known as "the winning shot." In reality, any basket scored from the opening tip-off till the final buzzer would have won the game. We simply choose to focus on the final basket.

There are days when we cross the finish line, reach the goal, or pass the milestone. These are special days, and we should enjoy them. But don't ever forget the ancient Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Every step along the way is to be experienced, enjoyed, and savored.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Problems

My newest book is entitled "The Ultimate Gift." It is a novel that deals with discovering the 12 gifts that make our lives complete and fulfilled. Readers instantly understand the Gift of Family, the Gift of Friends, the Gift of Money, etc. The one gift that baffles most people at first glance is the Gift of Problems.

In light of current national and world events, it is important that we realize that in every tragedy and in every problem, there is a potential gift and a seed of greater good. This is what I call the adversity advantage.

While recent events are tragic and have caused great pain and suffering, there are potential benefits that can come from the devastation. Who among us has not felt closer to friends and family? Who among us has not felt more patriotic and a heightened sense of pride in our country? Who among us has not come to value the job done by police, fire, and emergency workers?

The damage is done. There is nothing any of us can do to reverse the death and destruction. What we can do is commit ourselves to moving forward with a new sense of appreciation for the life we live and the freedoms we have.

Those who tried through senseless acts to destroy our spirit and our freedom have, instead, rekindled an even deeper appreciation for these things among all freedom-seeking and peace-loving people around the world.

When we think about the adversity advantage, it is important to remember that the adversity carries no automatic benefit with it, but our reaction to the adversity can make all the difference. For every person you can show me defeated by circumstances, I will show you another individual facing the same circumstances who has turned the adversity into an advantage and moves forward as a better, stronger person with a heightened sense of destiny for their life.

Today as you continue to grieve and search for a sense of meaning, begin to look for the adversity advantage in the current circumstances. The only lasting tribute to those who have lost their lives is for those of us remaining to value and maximize the life we have even more.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Friends

Some day when you look back on what I hope is a successful and satisfying life, you will count your wealth not so much in dollars but instead in the quality, caliber, and number of your friends.

The word "friend" is thrown about far too loosely in our society. We have a tendency to think of those people with whom we have shared good times as our friends. While many of these people are, indeed, friends in every sense of the word, the best way to judge a friendship is in times of difficulty. Think of those people you would call in the middle of the night if you were facing a dilemma. There are those very special friends that you know you could call at three in the morning with a problem, and they would be there with whatever you need, no questions asked. These are your friends.

It is simple to find people who will gather around you for a party or when times are good, but friendship should be measured by dependability in times of difficulty. The recent terrorist activities have demonstrated this to the whole world. Groups and nations with whom we were not particularly close during ordinary times have rallied around us in our time of need.

I remember as a small child being taught a valuable lesson about being careful around strangers. I remember being told, "If you're ever lost or need help, look for someone in uniform like a policeman or fireman." During the recent tragedies, this lesson has proven to be good as gold. Those un-sung heroes that we too often take for granted have been there and continue to be there when we need them.

Friends are not necessarily those with whom we can agree or those who will be around us during the best of times. Friends are, instead, those who we respect, and who respect us in times of disagreement while knowing all along that they will stand beside us in our darkest hour. Let us all make it a point today to recognize our true friends and treasure them as the gifts they are for a lifetime.

Today's the day!

The Gift of Family

Over the past several years, I have written Winners' Wisdom columns that now number in the hundreds. Never have I struggled to present something to you that I felt was relevant and meaningful, in light of current events.

In the aftermath of the tragic terrorist attacks, we have all had and continue to have an opportunity to re-examine our priorities. Family immediately moves to the top of everyone's list. Who could ever forget those tragic scenes of men, women, and children wandering through the streets of New York looking for missing family members. People who have lost their families have lost everything that matters. Those who were fortunate enough to have family members rescued have everything of value, no matter what else they may have lost.

Let us all take this tragedy as an ongoing reminder of the treasure that we each have in that special group of people we call our family.

Another family phenomenon that has presented itself through this crisis is the reordering of family definitions. There are people suffering in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania whom we do not know and will probably never know. But, in a very special and important way, they have become our family. Many of us have given money, time, and even blood to these new extended family members. Americans have, also, discovered that we are a part of a global family. Countries with whom we differ greatly under ordinary circumstances have unconditionally come to our aid and given us pledges of support.

In the final analysis, this is not a struggle between religious or political factions. It is not even a struggle between countries at war. Instead, this is a classic age-old struggle between good and evil. The one advantage that those of us who try to hold to the good things of humanity have over those who hold to evil is the fact that we have an unbelievably strong and extended worldwide family of those who seek and hold to everything we believe to be good.

In the aftermath of all this death and destruction, one of my co-workers at the Narrative Television Network is preparing to bring home a new baby. The family of good around the world keeps on growing. Let us all continue our worldwide family reunion.

Today's the day!


The Author


Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author, columnist, and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082, or by e-mail at Visit for additional information.

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Copyright 2002 by Jim Stovall. All rights reserved.

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