I’ve been going crazy trying to come up with an appropriate birthday gift for a friend of mine – especially since we’ve agreed not to buy each other gifts anymore. I’m not breaking our agreement by doing this, because we didn’t outlaw birthday gifts. Just buying them.

She and I have been friends ever since we took a writing class together long ago. We stayed close even after my family moved – twice – to different and distant parts of the country. In the years since then, we’ve worked together on several projects and programs, and we’ve helped, supported and coached each other on different dreams we’ve had. We’ve also watched each other’s dreams grow and evolve in ways neither of us could have imagined, but which neither of us ever doubted could happen.

In all this time, we’ve seen each other in person only once. The rest of our contact has been through phone calls, email, and the Christmas and birthday gifts we’ve sent each other. Often, our gifts have supported the writing and inspirational reading we both love – books, gift certificates to our favorite bookstores, or plaques and paperweights with inspirational messages and encouragement. Or they might be related to our businesses, activities or other interests. We’ve also given each other scarves, jewelry, and other accessories.

After last year’s Christmas season had passed, my friend and I decided that at our age and stage in life, we treasure each other’s support and friendship more than any material gifts we could send each other. We agreed that a catch-up phone call, a bit of wisdom we acquired or a discovery we made recently, or a funny story we learned would be every bit as welcome and special, and probably even more meaningful to us both.

My friend is very clever and creative, and both her art and her life are colorful, whimsical and delightful. In the past, I’ve always kept the envelopes and packages from gifts she has sent me because she draws and doodles over them in such a way that always makes me smile or laugh out loud. Her personality and style shine through and are as much of a gift as whatever was inside. If she celebrates my special days by sending me empty envelopes or the link to a website she thinks I’d enjoy, they will still be gifts of herself that I know I’ll cherish.

It’s a little more of a challenge going in the other direction, however. The beautiful and original way she has of expressing herself isn’t something I’m able to do, and I know I’d fail miserably and embarrassingly if I tried. But I have other ways of expressing myself, and my friend is one of the people most responsible for helping me discover that in myself.

The gifts, skills, talents and strengths that we all have – and that I now call buried treasure – are gifts we often don’t even recognize in ourselves until someone else helps us to see them and to understand how valuable they really are.

For me, writing is one of those gifts. It’s something I’ve always done, and always enjoyed. And it’s especially rewarding when I can use this gift to share and celebrate people, activities and events that bring joy into my life – and into all of our lives whenever we take the time to notice, acknowledge and appreciate them.

So this column is my birthday gift to my friend this year. When she reads it, I hope it will remind her of how special she is, and what a treasure she is to me and to everyone who knows her.
And to anyone else reading this who may be trying to come up with an appropriate gift for someone special in your life, remember that the greatest gift you can give to someone else is a gift that’s inside of you right now.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on March 28, 2013.
©Betty Liedtke, 2013

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