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Sometimes it's the thought that counts, and other times it's the thing itself. What's the best gift you've ever received, thoughtful or otherwise?

Sometimes it's harder to receive than to give... for me to truly "receive" a gift, I have to get past old programs that shout "YOU'RE NOT WORTHY!" in the back of my mind.

Having taken that step, however, the gifts that have pleased me the most were the unexpected ones. Just this year, for example, a dear friend from Israel sent me a copy of "Diamond Age" by Neal Stephenson. I struggled through Cryptonomicon and have wanted to read this for years, but never took the time to make it a priority. It was a delightful surprise.

As has been said by others, "things" tend to accumulate and rapidly lose their meaning. Gifts of self are the ones that stay in memory forever. I think the best gift I was ever given was the opportunity to take a year off from university and live in Naples, Italy for 18 months.

The gifts I have enjoyed giving the most have been gifts of service. They neither rust, nor break; neither can they be lost, or stolen.


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