Lucky members of a studio talk show audience got a great return this week a trip to Australia. Oh, Oprah! You did it again. You surprised people all over the world with your gift-giving prowess. Janice Peck, author of The Age of Oprah: Cultural Icon for the Neoliberal Era, expects Winfreys last season to be filled with such giveaways.
She is rich enough to buy the best things in the world, but one of Oprahs consistent messages has been that we all have the ability to give. We cant gift a studio full of people, but by conserving our resources, we may be able to give one family a boost with a donation or gift of some kind.
Can a trip to Australia change your life? It can broaden your perspective to see different places and learn about different cultures and traditions. But it is Oprah herself that is the gift, not the trip. There is no greater gift than providing opportunities to connect with people, whether through a trip, a book, or a story.
A good gift doesnt have to cost anything, in fact. Sometimes an object passed down through history can help create a connection to people who lived in a different time a piece of jewelry or clothing, a wedding gown for instance. Sometimes something handmade or from nature makes the connection. What are the best gifts that you have received or given?
Here are some of my favorite gifts:One time a boyfriend sprinkled me with milkweed seeds that he popped out of an envelope and poured down over me while I was sleeping. I opened my eyes to soft fluffy puffs dancing on me, which at the time struck me as more romantic than roses.Although this wasnt for me, I relished the response when my sister gave her nephews tickets to a Bulls game one Christmas Eve. They left right after opening the tickets and it was gratifying to see the boys have their Cinderella moment of (literally) going to the ball.One of the greatest gifts my sisters and I have received from our parents is not one they intended to give. Cleaning their house prior to selling it after my father had died and my mother was in a nursing home, we finally opened the aluminum trunk where we knew their love letters were stored.Our whole childhoods we had been warned away from looking into the trunk. My parents made it clear that the things in it were private. When we started reading the letters, they werent what I thought they would be at all. Declarations of love were chaste, pure, and spiritual. But the details of their lives were wildly lush. Through the daily letters they exchanged while my father was in the service -- first stationed at a nearby base, and then in the Pacific Islands we have an opportunity to know our parents in their 20s. We know the food they ate, the movies they saw, the books they read, the people in their lives, the work they did day after day from 1942 to 1945 and what they thought of all of it. We also learned about what it was like to hear Roosevelt and Churchill on the radio and to see a faint plume of smoke far away that was the atomic bomb. We walked with my father through the corpse-littered streets of Manila and stood with him on the beach waiting for the last transport back to the U.S. after the war had ended, and shared moms growing excitement as he got closer to home.
As for favorite gifts Ive given, I would have to ask others to judge those. But one thing I learned after having a family was to gift myself first before I started any holiday shopping. That way I was able to plough through season after season without resentments, considering I had the kind of husband who once shopped for my Christmas gift at a gas station after all the stores had closed on Christmas Eve.Any one of us can create an eye-popping Oprah moment. But its what stays in the heart that makes a great present.About the author: Judy Kirkwood writes about gift giving and other important things from Delray Beach, Fla.Read about Oprahs Australian surprise to her fans here!