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Media Contacts:
Nora Firestone


VIRGINIA BEACH, VA                            November 26, 2010


Results of the 2010 Effects of Gratitude on the Everyday Experience survey indicate that the gifts that Americans tend to treasure most in a lifetime are those of an intangible, not material, nature.


Of the "gifts" received from others in their lifetime, 76 percent of participants of the survey, sponsored by Hampton Roads-based ThankingOfYou.com, reported that the "most valued" have been of an emotional/mental nature.  This number far outweighed those within the other categories, resulting in only eight percent surveyed considering gifts of a "physical" nature most valued, another eight percent reporting "monetary" gifts most valued, four percent perceiving "spiritual" and another four percent considering "material" gifts most valued.  The results for the gifts they've given others were close in comparison.


When asked about the "most lasting" gifts received, zero percent reported they were of a "monetary" nature; four percent, "physical"-natured; eight percent "material"; 28 percent "spiritual"; and 60 percent, of an "emotional/mental" nature.


"What the results of this entire survey seem to confirm," said Nora Firestone, journalist and founder of ThankingOfYou.com, the Web-based forum for posting and receiving stories of gratitude (messages of thanks) for the people who've made a difference in our lives, "is that the most cherished gifts are those which create the internal infrastructure for ongoing development of positive characteristics throughout a lifetime.


"Participants who reported having the deepest sense of gratitude for all circumstances in their own lives--including those gifts of virtues that others have given--also reported more of an ability to create and foster successful relationships in their personal and business lives," she added.


This is good news as the holidays approach this economically-challenged season, Firestone said, as gifts of time, attention and kindness are essentially free to give.


"While people who are working less may have seriously tightened their budgets recently, the upside is that many do have more valuable time than before," Firestone explained.  "This means that this year, people can--and probably should--consider gifts of their time and attention in addition to or rather than gifts of great monetary value." 


Firestone noted that with a bit of intention priceless anecdotes, family stories, virtues and skills can be instilled during this time together with children and that anyone, at any age, can benefit from feeling valued by and connected with others. 


"It's this time and attention to better bonding and uplifting experiences that create the gifts of the greatest lasting value--gifts that can be opened again and anew at different stages of one's life as they become newly relevant," Firestone said.


Here, Firestone shares her top ten ideas for meaningful giving on a budget


For kids:

  • Instead of movie theater passes, make a plan to see a movie together.  "While two tickets cost more than one, we may feel obligated to spend even more on a gift card than the actual cost of a movie because we've become accustomed to recognizing the monetary value of a gift card as the important thing," Firestone said.  "In fact, the cost of one adult and one child's ticket--especially in the afternoon hours--and a bucket of popcorn can cost less than whatever monetary amount one might feel obligated to purchase on a single card."

  • Teach/foster a timeless talent or skill.  "Past generations of adults spent a lot of time teaching children valuable skills, like sewing, building, playing an instrument, cooking, inventing, you name it," Firestone said.  "Hone in on the innate talents and real interests of the children in your life and design a plan to help them unearth and develop those passions and talents in a fun, encouraging way.  If it's something you do well, share your talent.  But either way, make sure it's something the child wants to develop.  The gift idea here is fun, encouragement and self-discovery, not undue stress or a sense of obligation.  Some kids might want to explore a series of different talents.  Follow their lead-they inherently know the value in doing that, even if it's not yet obvious to the adults."

  • Keep a running diary for the child throughout the year and present it to him/her at the holidays.  "This is a great idea--a true treasure for the child who receives these annual logs of significant events, big and small, and has the ability to re-read them and reflect at various stages of his or her life," Firestone said.  For young children, the diaries can include lots of photos, hand-drawn pictures and even letters s/he has written, Firestone advised.  "At all ages, include direct quotes by the child; transformative events in his or her life; your own and others' observations of what makes him or her special and unique and how he or she has handled challenges and is maturing; and your personal sentiments of love, respect and admiration for the child," she added.  Each new year, select a new diary with a design that reflects the child's personality at that time.

  • Invent a game together.  Take the time to explore ideas and develop and design a game that kids and adults can play together.  "Craft the pieces, boards, cards, or whatever items the game requires, together," Firestone said.  "Write the instructions and design any graphics involved, then created them on the computer or by hand.  Then plan a day to unveil the game to family and friends and play it as a group.  Make it an event, with favorite snacks and people; take photos or video of the big reveal.  If it goes over really well, and you think you might be on to something special, consider developing it further in the coming year together."  

    For adults:

  • If you're a builder or contractor of some sort, with little or no work this month, offer to teach a best friend, family member, neighbor or business associate how to do a specific home improvement project.  "The recipient can supply the materials and you spend time assisting him or her while teaching valuable skills with which he or she can accomplish this important goal immediately and then accomplish similar goals on future projects," Firestone said.  "Every time your friend admires the project, he or she will likely recall the heart, talent, wisdom and muscle you contributed; it's another ‘bonding' thing."  Be sure to keep your own insurance in tact, though, as unexpected legal issues make terrible stocking stuffers.

  • Accomplish a small project for the benefit of a loved one.  "Maybe it's the home office that needs an organizational overhaul, her car that needs detailing, his favorite old chair that needs new stuffing and a cover," Firestone suggested.  "Think about what projects your loved one would love to accomplish but hasn't been able to, and choose one that would make the biggest difference in his or her life at this moment."

  • Embark on a positive mission that reflects the values and passion of both you and a loved one and give him or her an honorary or active place in that mission.  "That place could be as obligation-free as adding his or her name and ‘spirit' to the mission with the invitation to step in to any aspect of the project as he or she is ready and able, to establishing a more active role for this person to play," Firestone explained.  Some examples: naming the newest fabulous blend in your coffee house after this person or establishing a grant or fund in his or her name.  "This can be an especially great opportunity for someone who's retired or who has disabilities," Firestone noted.  "The important thing in any case is that it's presented and received as a gift, as a respected place in something meaningful, not as an unwanted obligation."    

  • If you're the type to point out the negative, refrain.  Instead, keep track of all the good things your loved one/s do and offer up the lists as gifts of genuine appreciation.  "If your husband's loading the dishwasher, bite your lip if you're inclined to point out that the bowl won't get clean if positioned right behind the cake platter," Firestone said.  "He'll discover it on his own--or not--once the dishes are done.  The more important thing is that he's acted to relieve someone else of this duty.  So add that to your ongoing secret list of things your family does that add value to your life in some way."  On each of the eight nights of Hanukkah or twelve days of Christmas, present findings from your list to those people, praising their kind acts and letting them know why you appreciated them, Firestone suggested.  "Meanwhile, you've been giving another gift to them all along, having intentionally practiced turning your own negative thoughts and observations into positive and constructive ones-a fine, loving way to interact in any environment," she added.  This can be extended to co-workers and others with whom we interact daily as well.

  • True, meaningful stories of gratitude (messages of thanks), highlighting and honoring the unique contributions of those who've made a difference in our lives: "We call these the ‘gifts of a lifetime' at ThankingOfYou.com," Firestone said.  "They're life-affirming and provide valuable insight to a person's true impact in this big world.  Often, and I think now more than ever in recent history, people are searching their futures for a sense of life's purpose.  What many don't realize is that ‘life's purpose' has as much or more to do with who we already are, who we've already been, to the people in our lives every day," she explained.  "Focusing on the goodness and greatness in a person--and every person has it in him--is an essential and extremely nurturing act that, when done genuinely and with attention to details about the impact that person has had on others, is a liberating, validating and rejuvenating gift like no other.  It's something the recipient holds dear; something that tells him or her that those seemingly 'small' acts and efforts did not go unnoticed or unappreciated; something with which a person who's now searching for direction can begin to chart a new and distinctive course based on the unique insight to what others most value about him or her."

    A story of gratitude can take anywhere from 20 or 30 minutes to a few hours over the course of several days to write or video tape, and can easily be posted and viewed, free of charge, at ThankingOfYou.com. "It's simply a letter to recognize a person's contributions, affirm the value of the contributions in the life of the person writing the letter, and share why those contributions still matter today and, perhaps, how the letter-writer plans to let that gift live on through her for the benefit of others," Firestone said.  "Not only is it a special gift for the recipient, but it's a preview of his or her legacy; a lasting, public testimony to the life of that person--one that extended family and friends can read and enjoy for generations.  This makes a great gift for teachers and ‘do-good' organizations--such as hospitals, scholarship funds, charities, rescue squads and religious and mentorship programs--as well," she noted.  "The added gift to them is broader visibility and genuine, well-thought-out true testimonials--something money can't buy."  


ThankingOfYou.com is the free Web-based forum for posting and receiving stories of gratitude (messages of thanks) to recognize, affirm and honor the people who make a difference in the lives of others.  Established in early 2008 and launched in '09, it was inspired by Nora Firestone's own desire and unsuccessful search to thank two elementary school teachers from Plainedge, Long Island, for the "little" things they'd each done decades ago that left a lasting, positive impact on her as she grew.  Firestone, a freelance journalist, lives in Virginia Beach, Va. with her husband and three children.  She is available to speak with groups and can be contacted at (757) 705-7174 or nfirestone@verizon.net.  

Who have you been meaning to thank?  Who on Earth has been Thanking of You?  Gratitude affirms life.  Express yours at www.ThankingOfYou.com

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