Several years ago, my son and I did not know what to get “Megan” (not her real name) for her 40th birthday.
We asked Megan, who is my wife and the mother of our son, for suggestions and she said, “I want you two to figure it out.”
We gave this a lot of thought and realized that celebrations are often about appreciation. The person being celebrated wants to feel appreciated by the people that matter the most to them.
Certainly, if we took Megan to a restaurant for her birthday, it would show her that we appreciated her. The problem is that eating at a nice restaurant generates fleeting feelings of joy and appreciation. We wanted Megan to feel appreciated for weeks, months, and even years afterwards.
Finally, after racking our brains, we discovered an idea. We called it, The Appreciation Notebook.
I want to give credit to the person who invented this idea. But I don’t remember where we found it. I’m glad to cite the inventor of this gift if someone tracks down its originator. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is how it works:
1. We emailed the people that matter the most to Megan. These were family members, friends, and co-workers. We wrote this in our email:
Subject Line: Question for you about Megan…
Hi (First Name),
It’s Wes, Megan's partner. I hope you and your family are well!
I’m emailing you because Megan’s birthday is coming up on (DATE). I’m asking all of her friends to write something nice about her. I’m going to take these comments and put them into a book. Here’s what I need from you (if you’re up for it):
Will you say a few nice words about Megan using the prompt—I appreciate Megan because…
You can write as much as you want. You can tell a story. You can be descriptive. You can say whatever you want to say. You can also use another prompt if you prefer. It's totally up to you.
You don’t have to say anything either. (I totally understand if you're busy.)
If you do want to contribute something, please send it to my email address by (DATE). That will give me enough time to assemble the book, edit it, and send it to the printer.
Thanks so much for being a valuable person in Megan’s life. Please don’t tell her (or anyone) that I’m doing this. It’s a surprise. I’m going to give it to her on her birthday.
All the best,
2. We compiled the comments into a single document. We gave each person one page and we added the person’s picture next to their comment.
3. We added a cover page to the document, which included pictures of the people who had written an appreciation comment about Megan.
4. We turned the document into a PDF.
5. We printed it off, took it to a copy shop, and had the document spiral bound with a clear plastic cover and a black plastic back.
6. We put it in a box and wrapped the box in gift paper.
On Megan’s birthday, my son and I presented this gift to her.
She shook the box and listened. Her eyes sparkled as she opened the box and pulled out her appreciation notebook. She read the cover, examined the pictures, and teared-up. “This is the best gift ever!” she said.
This gift worked so well that many of the people that submitted an appreciation nugget emailed me after Megan’s birthday, asking how she reacted to the gift.
Megan keeps her appreciation notebook on her desk. She told us that whenever she wants an immediate boost to her mood, she reads the comments in her notebook. She’s been doing this for years.
You can give this gift to your mom for Mother’s Day. You can also give it to anyone you care about for their birthday or another special day.
If you decide to give this gift to someone you care about, I hope it has a huge and positive impact on them. I’d love to hear how they received this gift. Please email me your story at email@example.com.
Wesley Murph, MA, QMHA
Professional Counselor Associate