Smart Solutions: Reaching out is the best gift

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

The art of gift giving has been on my mind. It all began with a set of whimsical pens from a friend that people are likely to return after borrowing because of their quirky taglines. She told me I could keep them or give them away, so I did a little of both by sharing some with my writers group.

Soon after, I visited the section of Target where she found them and I saw a fun find for a writer friend and a gift bag that said: “Well, it’s not a puppy.” When someone else in our group liked the bag and planned to buy one, the recipient said she didn’t need it so I gave it to her.

After being a gift giver of small tokens that day, I learned that someone had a surprise for me as well for helping her with something. It was a beautiful iron wreath embellished with birds that now hangs in my hallway.

Fun pens will likely stay with you.

That’s the beauty of giving. It can be as simple as a set of pens or as pretty as an accent piece. Just the fact that someone’s thinking of you is the gift that keeps on giving.

When I was feeling a bit melancholy during Thanksgiving break after a quiet celebration and no plans the next day, I received a call about a flower delivery that was due to arrive shortly. Even though I was right to think it might be work-related, I could not imagine who would be sending me flowers. When the stunning arrangement arrived, I was so surprised to see it came from a designer who lives across the country.

Not only was it an incredibly generous and unexpected gesture, but the glass container happens to be the exact size and shape I imagined filling with ornaments this holiday season.

That same day I was able to make last-minute plans to meet a friend for lunch who suggested we do some local shopping which was productive and fun. I bought some seasonal pillows for my daughter who wanted them for her room and my friend found a small wooden board as a hostess gift to pair with the cheese she was bringing to someone’s home that night.

A few days later, another friend told me that her daughter wanted to comfort the family she works for when she heard they had to put their dog down. So she brought fresh flowers for the mom and hot chocolate for the girls. Her thoughtfulness was greatly appreciated by all.

Other meaningful gifts that have come into my life include chatting with a friend I haven’t seen in years who reached out to me recently and getting a Christmas card from a former coworker who always sends the first one of the year.

As you consider your holiday list, remember it’s not always about the latest gadgets or costly goods. You can give the gift of reaching out to an old friend, sending a seasonal card or offering a small token. When it comes to the art of giving, it really is the thought that counts.  

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at