Photo: George Burns
What delights me most about the holiday season is that people are more open to giving and sharing. And actively thinking about how to spread more joy.
There is no better feeling, for sure.
I still remember the first time I stepped outside my box of giving only to family and friends, and did something significant for someone I didn't know. I was a reporter in Baltimore and had covered a story about a young mother and her children. I can't recall what difficulty had befallen them, but I'll never forget going back to their home and taking the whole family to a mall to buy winter coats. They so appreciated the gesture, and I learned how good it feels to do something unexpected for someone.
Since that time in the late '70s, I've been blessed with the ability to give really great gifts—everything from cashmere sheets to college educations. I've given homes. Cars. Trips around the world. The services of a wonderful nanny. But the best gift anyone can give, I believe, is the gift of sharing themselves.
Five years ago, at my 50th birthday luncheon, every woman in attendance wrote a note sharing what our friendship meant to her. All the notes were placed in a silver box. That box still has a treasured space on my nightstand; some days, if I'm feeling less than joyful, I'll pull out a note and let it lift me back up.
After the Legends gathering at my home in 2005—when I brought together 18 magnificent bridge-building, boundary-breaking women and a few dozen of the younger women whose way they paved—I received thank-you letters from all the "young'uns" in attendance. The letters were calligraphed and bound together in a book. They are among my most valued possessions. And they inspired me recently, when a friend of mine was going through a rough time: I called all of her friends and asked them to write her love notes, which I then had bound into a book.…
I gave to someone else what had been given to me.
Every gift is your way of expressing how you feel about another person.
I know for sure that's what we're here to do: Keep the joy thing going for all seasons.
More What I Know for Sure: Discovering who you were meant to be
Stories of Giving
From the December 2009 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!