Giving is in my nature. It's something I love to do. If you're the same way, you know that any act of sharing, any offer you make in kindness, comes back to you exponentially.

By the time the holidays arrive, I'm usually all gifted out; much of what you see on our Favorite Things list I've already shared with friends and family (and strangers!), for no special reason—just because. So it's wonderful to be able to offer the list to you, in the hope that someone new may find delight in things that delighted me.

But the true joy for me is in the giving, not in the things. This was brought home to me big-time after First Lady Michelle Obama, Tom Brokaw, and Bob Woodward appeared on the Oprah show in 2011 to talk about military families. During that hour I had a major aha when Tom pointed out that less than 1 percent of Americans serve in our military. The rest of us—the 99 percent—really have no idea what their families go through.

The First Lady suggested we reach out to these families and offer a kindness or two. Even before she finished speaking, my mind was awhirl: What can I do? You can't say enough thank-yous to people who put their life on the line for you and your loved ones. You can, however, show your appreciation. So after the show, I found ten military families in Illinois (where I was living) and ten in California (where I was planning to move). Then every month I sent them some of my favorite things, simply signing the note "Grateful American."

As we created this year's Favorite Things list, my primary concern was who—besides 12 lucky O readers!—would be receiving the gifts. Once again, military families came to mind. (Watch them receive their holiday surprise in this clip from Oprah's Favorite Things 2012.)

People say that the gift doesn't matter—it's the thought that counts. For me, though, it's more than the thought: What really matters is the spirit behind the gift.

Whatever your gift this season and beyond, let the message be "I appreciate you. I am grateful. You matter to me." Happy holidays.

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