The Voice for Insightful Leadership with Shelley Row, P.E.

Holiday shopper

He died on September 1. I have not yet tackled his closet, clothes, shoes, sweaters and ties. But, living in the house, I run into what I call the “stuff of life.” It’s the stuff we collect, save and hang on to whether it makes sense or not. There are hearing aid batteries, belts, shoe horn, a bag from a conference that must have a good use, small soaps taken from a hotel. Then there are sweaters and ties from past Christmases; coffee mugs with funny sayings that were stocking stuffers; or the kitchen gadget that we never figured out what it was for. All this stuff swirls around a life until the life is gone. One day, like me, you must sort through it all. Instead of buying more of it, here are three ideas for gifts that will mean more and save time. You can use them at home or at work.

1. Handwritten note. In our house, there are two drawers filled with cards and letters from his daughter. He kept them all. But more importantly, his heart was filled with the love written into each beautifully worded note from his daughter, from me, family or friends. A simple note, thoughtfully crafted from the heart, is worth ten shirts. It couldn’t be easier. At work, write a note to express what you noticed about that person’s skill, dedication or work ethic. Tell them they are appreciated. At home, just write what’s in your heart.

2. An experience. Now, with him gone, I don’t think about the stuff. I remember his laugh at an off-color movie, or his joy at attending his first ballet (Swan Lake in Amsterdam), the stories from our drive through the Shenandoahs (we hit a bear – don’t worry, it didn’t seem to hurt us or the bear). Instead of a sweater, try doing on an experience together. The memory of the experience will last longer than the video game. At work, take staff to lunch or to a compelling movie and discuss it afterwards. At home, find an experiential event like wine tasting, a musical, baking holiday gifts together or decorating a gingerbread house. It’s a gift that will last.

3. A Visit. In our increasingly virtual world, we lose touch with the value of face-time (not FaceTime). There is still no substitute for a human connection. At work, get up from your desk and walk around. Stop into offices and cubicles to say hello and express gratitude – in person. And at home, call a friend and stop by for a holiday visit, coffee, lunch or glass of wine. The time together far surpasses that lotion and bath set.

My suggestion is that you stop a moment before logging on to Amazon for more shopping and take inventory of the people around you. What can you do that’s a bit more meaningful – a note, a short visit or an experience together? That’s what will bring a smile and be memorable long after the box of chocolates are gone.



  1. I’m so sorry for your loss, Shelley. Please know that your messages/experience/knowledge are so incredibly appreciated and valued by everyone who reads your blog. They really do change our lives for the better and always provide a fresh perspective on how to view things/add meaning. I wish you peace, happiness, health and joy in the coming year!

  2. I can relate to this Shelley. This is what I call celebrating the life of a loved one instead of mourning their loss. Rejoice in the good times you had together. and cheriish the memories..I love your response to Mike’s departure.

  3. My father spends more time reading the notes I place in his cards for Father’s Day, birthday and the like than looking at the gift. And I still remember my uncle taking me for sausage pizza and root beer as a child. . . I never liked them until then.

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