A Man’s Gift


Hope you’re well and happy this Christmas.  I’ve found myself sitting on the sidelines of the consumer behaviors this holiday season.  Unable to participate in gift-buying for the first time since I began working at 12, it’s been a year that allowed me to reflect on the practice of giving gifts.  What does the season mean to me?  What are the gifts I most want to share?

No surprise…none of them are bought in a store.  This poem emerged from my gratitude to a friend that went out of his way to help me find some work recently, when it was the one thing I most needed.  Then it led to a broader thought about what men give the people they love.


A Man’s Gift

The greatest gift one man can give to another

Is the dignity of engaging his labor to productive ends

Lending purpose to his brawn or his resolve

Finding value in his existence

Consuming his industry without bias for who he is

And in so doing granting him the proud means to sustain his ambitions

The greatest gift one man can give to his wife

Is the confidence of admiring her love for the world

Offering an audience to her beauty or her kindness

Drinking in the sweetness of her creations

Envying her with sincerity for her unique gifts

And in so doing encouraging her to shine brighter and more eagerly

The greatest gift one man can give to his child

Is the passion for testing boundaries in a game or craft

Providing focus for the limitless energy we all once shared

Imparting a standard for excellence only they can define

Concealing his delight when they rise above him

And in so doing persuading the world that better days lie ahead

–          John Oliver

The author was one of the original contributors to the Good Men Project book.

John’s essay about the loss of his daughter, shortly after returning from Iraq, can be found here: “BlindFolded”

About John Oliver

John Oliver is a graduate of West Point and Yale, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, and a graduate of the US Army’s Airborne and Ranger schools. He lives in Richmond, Virginia, where he is a small business owner and occasionally, a writer.

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