The Christmas holidays never come soon enough. You get time off school, lots of delicious food and (if you’ve been good) lots of presents.

What is your favorite Christmas present? We asked our readers and got some interesting responses.

Our favorite came from Bluffton resident John Thiel, who found joy in a simple pastelcolored box. Here is his story:

A nicely wrapped package was placed in my lap as my family gathered around to help me celebrate Christmas.

Tearing off the wrapper, I was presented with a box.

The pastel-colored box had an image of an atlas and was typical of those that held my father’s cigars so many years ago.

The box, chosen carefully by my 7-year-old granddaughter, was light in weight, giving me the impression that it was empty. I was mistaken. I quickly discovered that the contents would grant me an abundance of joy beyond my wildest imagination.

Today, my cherished box sits prominently on top of my dresser. A simple gift that cost little but counts for much.

My wife, sister and two daughters had filled the box with 365 concisely, lovingly written tales from my early childhood, through the parenting years and the ensuing empty nest. I was immediately impressed by the amount of devotion it took to create a year’s worth of stories.

My daily reading of each note felt like a bath of the sun’s warmth. Opening the doors of the past welcomed me to life’s experiences. I was reminded that it is the small events that frequently make us the happiest, the occasions that are not big deals, cost little and yet remain imperishable treasures.

The shared memories opened us up, allowing us to reach out and touch each other in an intimate way. After reading a daily vignette, I sent an e-mail to each family member sharing the day’s memory, along with my response.

A few of the vignettes nudged me to revisit once again an event from the point of view of the writer. Some stories helped to defi ne and expand me, or took my breath away.

A few humbled me and many created moments of humor and surprise. The box is a journey of remembrances, a sampling of times that helped me refl ect, celebrate, or seek forgiveness for a testy or insensitive reaction. I experienced many emotions, some of which were unexpected, as I relived the stories typed on the small pieces of paper. Contemplation granted me the privilege of becoming even more acquainted with my family, experiencing the extraordinary within the ordinary.

Holding a small piece of paper containing two or three sentences was like reading with a magnifying glass in which a story from times past was brought into clearer focus.

The faithfully scheduled evening ritual and anticipation of pulling out another note offered an exciting journey in ways I never would have imagined. The box gave each of us a chance to smooth out some rough spots and fill in missing pieces.

I think it helped all of us to see the essence of events in better perspectives. I gained an insight that as a spouse, brother, and father I too often have gone about life’s business on autopilot.

The contents of the memory box has shaken up my complacency. The engraved priceless tales are the highest sign of kinship.

Family and people with whom we have a close connection are always on a pilgrimage toward the heart of the mystery of growing. It is where we learn the things about ourselves and others that enables us to develop a greater sense of self. Whether we possess a real or an imaginary memory box, collecting memories and periodically recalling them may provide needed comfort, direction and sense of unity.

- John Thiel, Bluffton


What is the best gift you’ve ever received? Respond to this article online at or sound off on our Facebook page.