There’s very little in life as satisfying as getting someone the perfect gift. Just the idea that you can make another person that happy is great. It’s true for everyone, but I’ll bet parents know it better than most. It’s challenging getting the perfect gift. It’s even hard for Santa. But, when you can do it, it’s worth every bit of effort.
There are two basic types of successful gift and a perfect gift has to be both. One is an instant gratification gift. These are the gifts that cause excitement from the moment they’re opened. Most of us can remember a birthday or a Christmas where we got one of these. Some toy that you were so happy to get that you couldn’t get it out of the box fast enough and you carried it around the whole day. It’s a special kind of thrill.
Instant gratification gifts don’t always last very long, though. Last Christmas, my mom bought little drone toys for her grandchildren. They were a big hit. The whole family spent hours playing with the drones that day. It was a lot of fun. But, I’m honestly not sure anyone has played with them since. It doesn’t matter, though. They were good presents, just not perfect.
The second type of successful gift is the soul satisfying gift. These are pretty obvious. They’re the gifts that get years and years of use, where the good feeling lasts and lasts and lasts. When you get one of these presents, it’s like getting a warm hug every time you think about it.
Soul satisfying gifts aren’t always instant hits. I remember when I was nine or ten, I got a sleeping bag for Christmas. I barely noticed it that morning. When we went over Gram’s and she asked if Santa was good to me, I probably forgot to mention the sleeping bag. But, over the next fifteen to twenty years, that sleeping bag got so much use. I brought it on camping trips and sleepovers. The first place I lived on my own, I had a finnicky furnace. That sleeping bag kept me warm on some very cold nights. When I was nine or ten, I had no idea, but I couldn’t have asked for a better gift.
Aside from instant gratification and being soul satisfying, a perfect gift has one more element. It needs to be unexpected, a surprise. A person can’t pick out their perfect gift themselves. I guess this is where “It’s the thought that counts” comes in. It’s unlikely that someone would get the perfect gift from a work Secret Santa. To get the perfect gift, you need to really know and care about the person you’re buying for.
I’ve received a handful of perfect gifts in my lifetime. In 1993, my aunt gave me a copy of Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn by Joe Henderson. I have always loved getting records, so I was excited when I opened it. I couldn’t wait to listen to it. It is absolutely soul satisfying. It’s one of my favorite albums ever. It’s still in regular rotation thirty years later. And it was unexpected. I was just getting into jazz at the time. I didn’t know who Joe Henderson was, and couldn’t have known he would become one of my favorites. It’s also where I discovered Christian McBride (@mcbridesworld), Stephen Scott, and Gregory Hutchinson (@Hutchmaniac). It opened whole new worlds for me. It was utterly perfect.
When I’m giving gifts, I’m always chasing the perfect gift. I think (hope) I’ve managed it sometimes. I can’t be sure, though. You’ll have to ask the people who received gifts from me. I will keep trying. And I wish you good luck in your own quest to find the perfect gift.