A man named Sam passed away this week. I didn’t know him, had never met him. But his daughter, Sue Ann, is a friend of mine. And she wrote a beautiful tribute to him on her blog. Through her celebration of him, I got to meet him and I fell in love with his warm and generous spirit.
I fell in love with the way he would chat with strangers in the grocery store. (“You would never send my dad to the grocery store if you needed something quick!”) I fell in love with the way he’d say, “This is a great party, isn’t it?” during any ole family dinner because every meal was a party for him. I fell in love with the fact that in his seventies he reinvented himself as a watercolor painter and began exhibiting his work. I fell in love with the way he would surprise Sue Ann by warming up the car and cleaning off the windshield when it snowed so she could safely drive.
I never met Sam, but he is alive in my heart as I write this. I’m changed because of him. And that wouldn’t have happened if Sue Ann hadn’t taken the time to share a few things about him that make him unique.
This isn’t new stuff for me, but it’s like seeing the sunset. There’s that same “wow” factor every single time. It’s this: there is something profound in sharing and hearing what is good, lovable, wonderful, and unique about someone. In a world of not-enough and jump higher and do more, we all yearn for the simplicity of simply loving the people around us. It is the antidote to “something wrong.”
Just recently, I’ve talked to someone who surprised her son with a collection of Love Lists from dozens of friends and family. And I just received an email from someone else who did something similar for her 80-year-old mother.
I created Graduation Celebration books for a high school woman and a college man. I made a retirement book from a man’s closest colleagues who wanted him to know the legacy he was leaving as a teacher.
I talked to someone whose son wrote her the most beautiful letter for Mother’s Day after she asked him to make a Love List for her instead of buying something. And someone else who took the time to jot down a few things she loved about her friend and send them in a card through the mail.
I got a note from a Celebration Book client who told me that for eight years, every wedding anniversary, she and her husband have pulled out the Wedding Celebration Book I made so they can read all the stories and re-experience all the love written in those pages.
What all of these gifts have in common is that they are tangible expressions of the deep connections between people. They’re gifts that reflect people’s spirit and uniqueness through specific stories, just like Sue Ann did by telling us about her father in the grocery store.
I know we’re all busy. I know that there is a tremendous information overload in the world. I know it can be a little awkward and vulnerable to share how we feel about people.
But I also know this: that there is nothing more important. And that all too often, we wait for a bigger occasion. We wait for a feeling that isn’t so vulnerable. We wait until we have more time.
And that time never comes.
I don’t care if you buy a Celebration Book from me or make a homemade card or create a Love List. The form doesn’t matter. What I care about is that you do it. That you take the time to let people know what it is that you love and appreciate about them. I promise not only will it have a wonderful impact on the person receiving the gift, it will transform you in the process.
And for extra celebration credit, tell someone else. Tell you son what you love about his father. Tell your best friend what you love about your sister. Write and tell me what you love about your daughter, friend, or colleague. The more we express our love and appreciation, the more it anchors in. The deeper it gets. The bigger it grows.
I just wrote to Sue Ann and told her that my heart still feels squishy and tender. Her dad, Sam, whom I never met, has changed me today. Reading about him has helped me align with my own life and priorities. That’s the power of expressing love for people and sharing it. (That's the “sunset factor” right? It is just as powerful every single time!)
How about in honor of Sam, we all vow to strike up a friendly conversation with a stranger in the grocery store this week? Or, just once, when you’re having an “ordinary” dinner, exclaim, “Oh, what a party this is!” Or, how about this— in honor of Sam, we take the time to jot down three things we love about someone and send it off — right now!
Express your love. It changes everything.
P.S. If you want to create a Love List for someone, here’s a free template you can print out, fill out, and give out. Or, here’s a ten-pak you can buy if you want to collect a bunch of ‘em from someone’s closest friends and family. Here’s information on the one-of-a-kind Celebration Books I create. Here’s a link to an ebook with lots of other creative gift ideas.
Here’s my email address if you want to tell me what you made and for whom! I’d love to hear. (Really! It makes my day when people tell me about great gifts they've given or received!)