The ripple effect of a $2 gift


Image courtesy of against the grain scholars

Image courtesy of against the grain scholars

My husband made me cry last weekend. He said the loveliest thing that tears sprang to my eyes and streamed down my face.

This story began one Christmas morning about twelve years ago when I gifted my husband and son a box each for Christmas. They were $2 boxes from the discount store, about 20 cm cubed with lids, bright, colourful and empty. Yes, that’s right. They were empty.

My husband, trying to remain polite, looked incredulously at this empty box. His expression conveyed his thoughts – what was the meaning of an empty box? At Christmas?

As I explained to the pair of them the box was a ‘Happy Box’, empty now so they could fill it with happy memorabilia.  I too had a box which I filled over the years with photographs, love letters, certificates, news clippings, small hand-made gifts. I filled it with things that made my heart sing. Things that bought joy to my life. Things I wanted to remember.  My husband’s box began to fill too.

About six years ago my beloved used his box as the focus of a motivational talk to his students. He is a Principal in a high school. I’m not sure exactly what he shared in his story. I wasn’t there but I do know that he shared with them the types of memories he collected, the joy of delving into the box to reflect on successes and achievements. He impressed them by drawing from the box a photo of their cohort and sharing the positive impact they have had on his life and the joy he received from working with them, seeing them grow and helping them reach their goals. Funnily enough, he shared with them too his reaction at having received an empty box on Christmas morning. That got a chuckle I’m told.

That story and the happy box, shared for the first time six years ago,  was such a hit that parents, teachers and students continued to comment about it throughout the year.  In the years since that first speech the senior students have asked for the ‘Happy Box story’ to be told at assembly. Parents, teachers and friends of friends have commented about the inspiration that simple story held for them.  Students have bought friends happy boxes for their 18th birthdays, parents have bought them for all of their children and themselves. Each year a cheer goes up when students become aware that the happy box story is about to be told.

How does this connect with my tears you might ask?

You see, we were discussing the popularity and the reach of the happy box story and my darling husband turned to me and said “Shannyn, from one small act you have changed the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people.” He calculated that over six years he has told the story to almost 300 young people each year, who then share it with goodness only knows how many others.

He looked at me and said “You always say you want to make a difference in the world. And you do through the small things that come naturally to you. Each day you impact so many people in such positive ways.”

(Hence the tears)

I hadn’t considered this before, particularly in connection with the box. I’d not considered the ‘Happy Box story’ to be my legacy. I’d always marvelled at the inspiration my husband instilled in others with this story.  I’d not realised that a small gift I had given, with love, one Christmas morning many, many years ago would touch the lives of countless people.

I was humbled.

I realised too, that we never really know the impact we have on the lives of others.

I realised that it doesn’t have to be grand gestures that change the world, that small acts of love, consideration and sharing of ourselves can have the mightiest influence.

The idea of the ripple effect really sunk in for me. I have been mindful all week. This new knowledge has put a different perspective on the way I act. The way I talk. The choices I make.

Don’t underestimate the impact you have in the world.

Much love,



13 thoughts on “The ripple effect of a $2 gift

  1. Shannyn, thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story. I sometimes feel helpless when I think of the enormity of trying to make a difference, but your Happy Box shows that one small act of kindness can have such a profound effect. A very inspiring story. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging comment. Don’t give up aspiritedgirl. I was truly amazed at the far reaching effect of that one small act. It also reminded me that while I won’t always know what impact I’ve had, I should not be discouraged.

  2. Reblogged this on Luna Quirks and commented:
    My blog has been quiet recently for a number of reasons and I’ve been contemplating many different subjects and areas to explore. Then this blog crossed my path.

    It is true. The ripple effect is so very real. You never know where your actions will go and what effects they will have.

    I know of someone I can gift a Happy Box to and, I had never thought to have one. Guess what I’m off to purchase.

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