gift ideaHappiness

Secret of Happiness: Send a Surprise Gift

By January 30, 2017 January 31st, 2017 10 Comments

Want to be happier? Send a surprise gift.

The last few months I’ve been the recipient of a few surprise gifts. I’m still marveling at their impact on my life.

unnamed-11. The window candles.

I was at church one morning last month and my body language must have indicated I was having a bad day. True. I was really sad. Denise found me and gave me a hug. I started rambling on about window candles. Why could I never seem to get them to work? After my mother-in-law’s death, I had inherited her window candles and was so excited to finally be that quintessential New England home with the December candles in the windows. I drove all the way to the store (here that’s saying something,) bought batteries, plugged them all in, and two days later they were tipped over, and all the batteries were dead. Dark windows. #fail

WHY? What was so hard about window candles?  Frustrated, I threw them all away. And was sad and mad.

Whatever. Unimportant. How are you?

“I might have some you can have,” Denise said. “I’m downsizing.” So nice, but oh dear. This would require something from me. They wouldn’t work and I’d have to find the right size bulb, and blah blah blah adding to more stress and stuff. Thank you, anyway 🙂

A few days later I received a present. Inside were six, brand new Christmas candles. No batteries required. All the lightbulbs worked. They light up automatically when the sun goes down and go to sleep when the sun comes up. They stay upright. And every night, for the past month, when I pull into the driveway, there are candles lighting up my dark windows in the middle of the dark winter in New Hampshire.

It’s a small thing. But Denise made this happen for me. And it makes me so so happy.

unnamed-2 2. A handwritten card from my sister, Andrea.

Even now, weeks later, I read this over and over. She wrote, “Thank you for being such a good friend…you wrote on your blog that optimism is your best trait. I disagree. I think your best trait is helping the people in your life feel loved…thank you, Amy, for loving me.”

It makes me cry every time I read it and I will cherish it forever, (especially when I’m crabby and not making anyone feel loved). A small thing. And makes me so so happy.

unnamed 3. Paintbrushes from a master artist.

I was completely overwhelmed when I received these paint brushes, some sample paper, and a letter in the mail a few weeks ago from Leanne. “You must simply start painting with watercolor because your eye is flawless.” Huh? Me? It’s true that I’ve secretly wanted to become Monet for a long time, but…you know. I pretty much assumed that if I hadn’t started by now it was too late. But Leanne said, “you must simply start!” This EXCEPTIONAL watercolorist was telling me I should paint. And so I obeyed! Brynne and I have been putting paint on paper, and artist Jill has invited me to come to her class, and I’m discovering this great art form and loving it so much.

Yesterday I painted a bird 🙂 A small thing. It makes me so happy.

DSC_03464. The gift of the rhubarb.

This past summer I was missing people. One day Tamar called and said, “I have a present for you but I have to give it to you in person.” She showed up with a rhubarb plant.

Oh dear. I had to plant something and not kill it.

“You won’t be able to kill it.” She said this stubborn rhubarb was weaving in and under her porch, reaping all sorts of destruction. She went to work on it, but was dismayed to see that she had unintentionally killed the whole thing!

“I was so sad. Every day this summer I came out to see if my rhubarb was growing back and every day there was nothing but dirt. Heather was dead and my rhubarb was dead and I was so so sad. Day after day. Well one day I came out and there was this tiny green shoot poking out of the ground! And I swear I heard Heather behind me. It was like she was right there and you know what she said? She said, ‘See! LIFE GOES ON!'”

And Tamar thought – AMY! She dug up the rhubarb plant, put it in a pot, drove all the way to my house, and told me the rhubarb story. “See! LIFE GOES ON!” And in my head I could see Heather standing behind me, pointing at the rhubarb in her strong, matter-of-fact voice. “SEE! LIFE GOES ON!”

My friends, none of these women had to bring me a gift. But for some reason, they thought of me, and then they ACTED ON THAT THOUGHT. They were busy with long to-do gifts and they stopped a moment to bring or send me a surprise gift.

They made me so so happy.

Funny the way gifts work. Friends and a sister put gifts in my lap and in the mail. They gave to me. But when I said thank you, I could see that they felt that same joy, too.

The best thing about a surprise gift is that it’s so unexpected. We expect gifts on our birthdays, at Christmas, and yankee swaps. But when a gift lands in  your lap and is so out of the blue, oh my goodness, it’s SO FUN! And it’s so entirely delightful to see the look on the recipient’s face. No wonder Ellen loves her talk show so much – she unexpectedly gives gives gives. Her guests cry and jump up and down, and we, her audience – WE LOVE IT!

If you think that making the world a better place is out of your control, you’re mistaken. Our circle of influence is our most powerful weapon for good. Start there and you’ll see – happiness has a ripple effect and continues far and wide.

Secret of Happiness: send a surprise gift. You’ll see it, you’ll feel it…happy.



  • Jill says:

    I simply love this post, and over time and reading what you have to say- I feel I have gotten to know you. I love the human that you are Amy ❤

  • Shirley says:

    I especially love your last paragraph Amy. We talked in RS yesterday about being strong women and making a difference and I immediately thought of our individual “spheres” of influence. If every woman who marched or protested recently, on whichever side of the political fence they are on, gave one gift, one random act of kindness, imagine the impact. That is not to say that protesting women do not give or act on kindness. I just think we could use a little more kind acts and a little less complaining on social media. We have more powerful and significant options within our reach. Actually, as I write this I am giving myself this instruction. Each time I am tempted this week to be negative, opinionated or complain on social media, I am going to perform an act of kindness instead. I shall report back. :>)

  • Jessica Lawson says:

    Oh, I love this post. I’m an impulsive gift buyer. Giving presents on holidays is great, but sometimes it feels so nice just to send someone something out of the blue. Then, of course, I always wonder if they’ll think I’m nutty, but it’s always worked out just fine 🙂

  • Julia Tomiak says:

    I was just saying to a friend this morning how powerful “the little things” can be for bringing happiness into this world. It’s easy to get discouraged with everything going on today, but we’ve got to keep our little lights shining! I’m not good at gift giving – it doesn’t help that we live far from civilization and stores- but you remind me that there is a wide range of things that can be called gifts.
    Thank you, once again, for inspiration.

  • Mary Cope Nelson says:

    Thank you Amy. I am moved by this and always amazed by you

  • Dana says:

    This post made me happy, Amy. So thank you! I have been mailing one letter a week to someone in my life, and I hope that the recipients feel the way you do about the card from your sister. It makes me happy to tell these people how I feel about them, and I love that they don’t know what’s coming until they open their mailboxes.

  • sahasra says:

    I just now came across your article. I like all these ideas what you shared with us. It would be very helpful to me. Thanks for sharing this with us. Keep sharing like this. I’m waiting to see your next article.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.