One of the most meaningful things that happened to me this past year is that I received a note from a member of my community, Jenny, who told me that last year she and her children had created Love Lists for her husband/their dad. They delighted in the joy of brainstorming everything they loved about him and presenting their lists to him. Jenny told me that when her husband received the gifts of love he “cried tears of joy while reading them.”
Several months later, Jenny’s husband died unexpectedly of a heart attack.
As grief-filled and unimaginable as this loss is, Jenny found comfort in knowing that her husband knew how much he was loved and the tremendous impact he’d had on their lives. He knew how much he mattered. He knew why he mattered.
Jenny could have filed the Love List idea away and thought, “Things are so busy right now. I’d like to do this, but there’s just no time.” She could have thought, “Oh, maybe when my husband turns 50 we’ll do this.” She could have forgotten all about it.
But she didn’t. She took the idea to heart and immediately put it into action.
And because of that, her husband died knowing without a doubt that he was loved and he knew all the specific reasons he was loved.
It’s easy for us to think that we have all the time in the world. It’s easy to think, “Next year, I’ll ____,” “When I’m retired, I’ll _____,” “When the kids grow up, I’ll ____.”
But the truth is, we don’t know. Putting something off until a someday assumes that a someday will certainly arrive. And that isn’t always the case.
This is an article about making a very loving, meaningful gift for someone in your life. But more importantly, this is about becoming the sort of person who is willing to intentionally love better. It may not always be easy. It may be inconvenient. It may require us to be vulnerable and step outside of our comfort zone. But it’s worth it.
And you know why it’s worth it? Because we live in a culture that is often focused on what’s wrong or what’s missing. Many of us grew up with judgmental voices in (and out of) our heads. Giving gifts of love is an antidote to that negativity. It’s a way of helping someone focus on everything good and right.
When we’re in the process of creating a gift like the Love List, we get to bask in what’s great about someone, happy memories of times we’ve shared with that person and loving emotions surrounding who they are. That feels really good! We get to be the first recipient of the joy inherent in these kinds of gifts.
My gift suggestion for you, the Love List, is the perfect last-minute gift that is meaningful, heartfelt and absolutely free. It’s the kind of gift that could change someone’s life.
If you want to be the kind of person who expresses love and appreciation for the people in your life, don’t wait. Right now think about the people you love most in the world. Choose one of them and commit to making a Love List within the next three days. It could be the best 30 minutes you’ve ever spent in your life!
What’s a Love List?
It’s simple. A Love List is a list of all the things you love about someone.
Items on the list can be sweet, silly, funny, romantic or sexy. They can be memories of things that person said or did. They can be attributes like how kind or goofy someone is. You may love unique things about someone’s dreams or accomplishments. You might love the way someone handled difficulty.
To create a Love List, you simply set aside some time. Have paper/pen or a computer handy to jot things down. Then think about the person you are creating the gift for – and brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm.
Your list might contain things like this:
I love that you always make me cherry pie when I visit.
I love the way you greet me at the door with a warm hug.
I love your crooked nose.
I love the way you dance around the kitchen with me listening to Cab Calloway.
I love that you were game for a spontaneous trip to Niagara Falls that summer night and we sang show tunes all the way there.
I love your dedication to writing and that you finished your novel despite working full time.
I love the blue streak in your hair.
I love your love of Bazooka bubble gum.
Tips for Writing a Love List:
- To begin your list, set aside at least 20 minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time to focus.
- Begin your list by simply starting to write whatever drops in your mind. There will be some obvious things that come to you right away.
- Look at photos of the person you are creating the list for. This will help spark memories and ideas.
- Listen to music that person loves. This too, will inspire specific thoughts.
- Try to recall memories of trips you’ve taken, holidays you’ve shared, events you attended together or places you go on a regular basis. What made these experiences especially great?
- Think about when you first met this person. What attracted you to them? What stood out as unusual or especially appealing?
- The more specific you are, the better your list is. For example, instead of saying, “I love your sense of humor.” What if you said, “I love your sense of humor: every time you tell that story about getting lost in the parking lot at Costco with Suzy and pushing her around in one of their big carts, it cracks me up.”
Some fun ways to present your Love List:
Let’s say you’ve written a list of 10, 20 or 100 things. Now what?
You could stop right here and you’d have an amazing gift. Even if you handed someone a plain white piece of paper with your Love List scrawled in messy pencil, it would likely be one of the best gifts that person ever received.
I’ve certainly talked to many people who left just such a hand-written list at the breakfast table or on someone’s desk for them to find.
But if you’ve got a little extra time and want to make your Love List extra special, here are a few presentation ideas:
- Use my colorful free printable: Download a professionally designed printable that you can print out, fill out and give out.
- Make a Love List Joy Jar with Fairy Lights: If you have a couple hours and about $10 you can create a Love List that will really light up their life! Here’s a five-minute, step-by-step video to walk you through the process.
- Make a Love List Book or booklet: Buy a beautiful blank book and write one “love” on each page of the book. If you like to paint or draw, you can illustrate each Love List item with a personal watercolor or cartoon.
- Create Love List Fortune Cookies: You can slip your individual “loves” into fortune cookies, giving the gift recipient the joy of cracking ‘em open to discover all the things you love about them.
- Make a Love List Mobile: Your gift can be a piece of art! Find out how to make the mobile here.
- Read Your List Out Loud: Can you imagine sitting in a quiet place and reading your list to the person for whom you created it? This takes a little extra bravery, but it sure adds an intimate, loving touch.
Once You’ve Given Your Love List Gift, Let Go
Giving a gift of love can take a lot of courage and make us feel vulnerable. But you know what? Receiving a gift of love can also feel that way!
It’s important to remember that it might be a lot for someone to be given such a thoughtful, loving gift. Make sure your loved one receives it in a quiet place where they’re not put on the spot to respond. Also, know that they may need some time to take this gift in. Some folks have lived their entire lives without anyone ever expressing this kind of love. Learning how to accept gifts of love is just as much of a practice as learning to give them.
Let any kind of response be just perfect. After all, when we give a gift from the heart, nothing is expected in return!
One Last Thing
Celebrate yourself for being the kind of person who takes the time to give imaginative, loving gifts that matter.
The real secret sauce to giving these kinds of gifts is who we become in the process. It’s the joy and transformation we experience along the way. Do something special for yourself to celebrate your loving, kind heart. Hey, maybe consider making a Love List Selfie!