It’s the Thought that Counts

Jenna - Chula Vista, California
Entered on April 20, 2009

I believe in making presents for people’s birthdays rather than buying an expensive gift.

I always thought the old cliché that “it’s the thought that counts” was a lie, that when my dad told me, “If you want to get me anything for my birthday, make me a card,” was his way of saying he was sick of all the “Number 1 Dad” coffee mugs. I’d seen the way my sisters light up at holidays when they get exactly what they asked for and never thought that a simple handmade card could have that kind of effect.

A few years ago, my best friend Joey moved away to Hawaii, and her birthday was right around the corner. I was low on cash, and shipping is expensive overseas for large gifts. Not knowing how I was going to send her a present worth our friendship, my parents once again suggested that I make something meaningful rather than blow all my money on a gift. Out of other ideas, I decided for once to make something of my own. Spending hours sitting crisscross applesauce on my bedroom floor, construction paper and a hot glue gun in hand, I created quite possibly the most elaborate card I’ve ever seen. It consisted of multiple pages, all in different colored paper, strung together with ribbon like a book. Each page was decked out in glitter, stickers, scrapbook cut outs, photos of us, and a piece of the letter I wrote wishing my very best friend forever a happy birthday. Once finished, I was proud of what I’d made, but I remained skeptic about how my project would be received as a replacement to a real gift.

Several days later, Joey called me, elated to have received my package in the mail. I bit my fingernails as she opened it, hoping to my good Lord that she wouldn’t be disappointed. As she read through the letter and gazed at each page I’d put careful effort and love into, she began to cry. Worried I somehow did something wrong, I quickly told her that if she didn’t like it she could throw it away and I would buy her a present that she actually wanted. “No, no, Jen, you don’t understand. It’s just, this is the most creative thing I’ve ever seen you do. It’s…amazing. I love it.” Taken aback, I heard her start to laugh as she finished reading my card. She then told me, “This is, without a doubt, and I promise I’m not just saying this because you made it for me, the absolute best present I have ever gotten. It really shows how much you care about me, even now when we live so far apart. You’re my best friend, Jen, forever.”

After making that card for Joey, I’ve started designing gifts for all my friends’ birthdays. I covered a box with a poem I wrote and a bunch of flowers for one friend, decorated a notebook filled with inside jokes, drawings, and photographs for another, and have created countless scrapbooks and cards for all my friends’ birthdays throughout the past few years. Each time I make one, I put in a lot of time and effort, but more importantly I put my heart into the creation to make it unique. I want everyone in my life to know just how much I appreciate them, and I’ve realized that making presents is a lot more special than buying them.