If you asked people what the greatest gift is, you might be surprised at how varied our answers can be. This prompt initiated a conversation that explored the shadows of life. The sun doesn’t always shine, and happiness can feel fleeting. The longer we live, or the more direct experiences we have outside normal expectations, the answer shifts.
So, of course, the greatest gift makes an interesting exploration among writers. Ultimately, we can say the greatest gift is life — but we have many ways to express what that means, why it is so, and how we can manage such a precious and uncertain gift.
The following is based on the September 12, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the greatest gift.
PART I (10-minute read)
A Better Way to Serve (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Freya returned from Iraq, friendless. Mark Bastia didn’t survive the IED blast. His dog tags hung with hers. Despite combat, she was never counted as their brother. She pulled a long drag from her last cigarette, eyed the perfect branch from which to hang herself, and decided the greatest gift to the world would be to remove herself from its spinning. She touched the branch and recoiled. 22 a day, and she would not become another nameless statistic. Instead, she enrolled in college to battle veteran suicide and opened the first satellite Vet Center in North Idaho. She survived.
The Greatest Gift by Jo Hawk
As the day approaches, my anticipation increases. Doubt wrings conviction from my heart while my head constructs lists designed to weigh each decision’s consequences.
My worry consumes me, and my mother sends me to visit the shrine. The Omikuji will predict my future she says.
Thousands of paper strips tied to pine rods dominate the temple grounds. I fear the multitude of curses and bad fortunes others have tried to leave behind.
Still, I make my donation and follow ancient customs. Trembling hands clutch the paper. I read my destiny and press the god’s great blessing into my soul.
Let There Be Light! by Anne Goodwin
When I was small, the chores all done, I’d rest my head in my mother’s lap and watch the fireflies dancing, Grandfather’s stories music to my mind. But as I grew, the village shrank, the daylight hours too short for all I longed to learn. My teachers praised my intellect; they scolded me for homework half-done. Until I got the greatest gift: a lamp that caught the daytime sun and gave it back at night-time. Now I’m off to study in the city where neon never stops burning. When I’m trained, I’ll return as teacher to my classmates’ kids.
The Greatest Gift by Norah Colvin
The class was aflame with a mix of sadness and excitement.
“She’s is leaving.”
“She’s gunna have a baby.”
“I’m gunna bring her a gift.”
“I am too.”
On her final day, the children jostled to give first, hopeful she’d love their gift the best.
“Mine’s bigger than yours.”
“Mine’s the greatest.”
The children gloated and nudged each other as the teacher opened the gifts.
“This is great.”
“Thank you, everyone.”
Finally, Tommy edged forward. His hands were empty. He looked shyly into his teacher’s eyes and whispered, “I’ll miss you, Miss. You’re the best.”
The Greatest Gift by Donna Armistead
Daisy, my grandmother, comes to the living room arch to watch me practice pirouettes on the sculptured carpet. The soft slippery loops help my turns a lot. Unless I lose my balance.
I stop. She knows I hate it when people watch me practice. Though slightly annoyed, I love her and her faith in me. Even when every muscle hurts and Vicki gets cast in all the best roles.
Ten years later, she writes me in Boston. “Keep dancing,” she always signs her letters.
Fifty years later, and I’m still teaching kids. Trying to get them to “Keep dancing.”
Time Traveler by Donna Matthews
My mother told me I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. I could be anything from an astronaut to an astrophysicist. But all I ever wanted to be was a time traveler. I mean, come on! Who doesn’t want to roam through the dusty pages of history? Tiptoe silently into the unknown future? But alas, as it turns out, my sheer will and determination can’t quite transverse the time-space continuum…yet. I desperately hold out hope that the smart people of NASA will figure it out before it’s too late to make my mama proud.
The Guardian by Bill Engleson
It was such a little thing.
He’d always lived in the house, worked in the mill. Ruth taught grades 1-3 for twenty-five years, interrupting her work twice to have their children.
She loved teaching almost as much as their life together.
After she was gone, he went too far inside himself.
Finally, he came up for air.
After that revelation, he’d sit on his porch in the fall, the spring if it got even a tad warm, the early part of the summer, and watch the kids go by, wave, smile, just be.
He knew she would love that.
The Gift of Courage (from “Lynn Valley”) by Saifun Hassam
Teresa was a nurse physician. Her excellent skills in the care of surgery and chemotherapy patients were a great asset. Some of her patients were children.
Her rapport with the children was remarkable. They would often talk to her about their fears and worries. She would ask them perceptive questions about what had happened. It was never easy but somehow that helped the children to focus more on their recovery, and going home, a fresh start. She would read from their favorite story books. They loved her. She gave them the greatest gift they needed in those moments: courage.
Greatest Gift by FloridaBorne
I’ve been asked the question before and the answer changes according to my age.
“What is the greatest gift you’ve received?”
Age 5: The doll I wanted
Age 15: GoGo Boots.
Age 25: Son
Age 27: Daughter
Age 36: A bachelor’s degree.
Age 46: Enlightenment
Age 54: The perfect part-time job.
Age 63: Holding my first published book in my hands.
Age 67: My first office with a window.
Age 69: Doing a yoga headstand and carrying a gallon of milk with my pinkie finger.
Health, it seems, is the greatest gift. For without it nothing else is possible.
The Greatest Gift by Jim “Quincy” Borden
“I think I’ll make up a story about how for Christmas I wrapped everyone’s present in gray wrapping paper. Each box was a different size and weight, and everyone could pass the boxes back and forth until they all agreed on which box they wanted to claim as their own. I’ll then write about everyone’s immediate reaction.”
Tommy was explaining to his sister about the latest Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge.
Suzie looked at him quizzically and asked, “How are you going to relate that to ‘the greatest gift’?”
“Greatest gift? I thought it was the gray gift test…”
Edward Bear Has A Good Day by Joanne Fisher
Edward Bear wandered the forest looking for honey. His love hadn’t woken yet from her winter sleep and she would be hungry when she did, just like he had been. During his search for a beehive, he encountered two humans. They took one look at him and screamed as they ran off leaving behind a large basket. Edward rummaged though it finding all sorts of foods, including a jar of honey. He took the basket to where his love still slept. There would be all sorts of food for her when she woke. It would be the greatest gift.
The Stupidity of the Sexes by Chelsea Owens
“What, Isla? What did I do?” Peter stared into her eyes; if his were not close to tears themselves, they at least reflected hers.
Isla sniffed. She felt the lines of wet on her face, the dryness of her lips, the misery of her soul. ‘Surely,’ she thought bitterly, ‘He knows what he did.’
Peter felt clueless. ‘All I said was that people never forget their first girlfriend,’ he mused, ‘Just because Stella said, “Hi…”’ He looked at Isla’s splotchy face. Maybe a comforting smile would help.
Isla burst into fresh tears. “I -I -I -gave you my heart!”
Time, Heart and Head by tracey
She was 83, too old to be living alone said her grandchildren. Her house was worth a fortune they said.
“It’s my home, not a house,” she groused. “Fine, when the Cubs win the World Series I’ll move.”
She spent her 92nd summer as always, listening to the Cubs on the radio. She was tired, worn out; it had been a hard year. In her head she knew it was time to move.
Finally, game seven of the World Series. Tie score. Rain delay ends at last. Her heart races, knows: it is time for the Cubs to win.
The Greatest Gift by Anita Dawes
Being here in the first place
The friendships we make
The lovers we take
Fighting through the storms
While an angry mother
Tries to rearrange the world we live on
The beauty of a coral reef
The sunsets, the full moon
So many gifts
The hand of a stranger offering help
The sound of a new-born baby’s cry
Someone will always be here
While others leave
A reminder of our immortality
Art made by a stranger’s hand
That we like to look upon
Most of all to be loved
To love in return, to live, to prosper…
Given, Not Gone by D. Avery
The gift of creation, with free will, was given long ago. Somehow this planet came into being in this solar system; over time each one of us also had a beginning. In our beginnings was wonder, was potential, power, and promise.
That was then, this is now.
Now we might dwell on our flaws and misspent potential, might despair at our human failings, might mourn the state of our planet.
Or, right now, we might acquire humility and gratitude for the Gift. Every Now is a beginning. We could choose to cultivate and nurture potential and promise, right Now.
Reciprocation (Rerun! first published for the April 6, 2017 Carrot Ranch prompt) by D. Avery
Do not forget Turtle who brought the earth up from the watery depths. Do not forget Tree, whose roots hold and cradle the earth, whose branches hold up Sky. These ones, Turtle, Water, Tree, Sky, are sacred.
Long ago these ones spoke together, and together thought to provide and to sustain; they thought us into existence that we might use their gifts.
Be humble. Our creations are mere imitations, expressing gratitude, expressing wonder. Be mindful. Give thanks to Turtle, to Water, to Sky, to Tree. We are their thoughts that receive their gifts, and they think us most sacred.
PART II (10-minute read)
The Greatest Gift by Faith A. Colburn
My son and his father don’t get along and that means Ben is losing half of himself. My former husband gave us scary times and he wanted to make up for it, so when he got his life under control, he gave Ben the greatest gift he knew how to give—a horse. That’s because when he was going through the worst of his own adolescence, his horse provided him solace. During summers Ben spent in Colorado with him, they rode horses and took packing trips. Those were good times for Ben, but somehow he’s lost whatever they had.
Properly Prioritizing by JulesPaige
Jackie was never just one of the girls. Life, if it’s too perfect, move along. Because you are dreaming. Once you wake up you’ll see that the greatest gift is to be present in the moment. And you don’t have to have any cards to carry to say you belong to this group or another.
One day you are thinking of making wedding anniversary plans and the next you learn your husband has cancer. A small slow growth removable by surgery. Which might not even require lifelong meds or radiation. Take each day as a gift, learn to live.
Time to Heal by Chris Hewitt
“I don’t understand, why can’t you just bring her back?” he sobbed, “You could just bring her back!”
“I can’t,” said Death, “I don’t choose who lives and who dies.”
“You’re Death!” he spat, “If you don’t choose, who does?”
Death shrugged and pointed up, “Someone upstairs.”
He shook his head, “I don’t want to live without her, I can’t!”
Death looked down and played with his hourglass.
“Please!” he pleaded, staring into empty sockets.
“I can give you something that will help,” said Death.
“The only gift I have,” said Death, handing over the full hourglass, “Time!”
The Greatest Gift by Ritu Bhathal
“What would be the greatest gift you could give me? Honestly?” Maggie looked at her husband, who was trying his hardest to make her looming 40th birthday one to remember.
“Of course, honestly Love. It’s your big day. The kids and I want to make sure it’s a day to remember for you. Don’t be shy.”
“Alright then, the greatest gift you could give me is time.”
“What, like a new watch or something?”
“Not a watch, John, no. Time. Every day. Help me out a bit. Act like their dad, not their babysitter. That’d be the greatest gift.”
The Gift of Life by Susan Zutautas
The gift of life
Was given to me
Not once, not twice, but three times
Cancer can be a killer
I’ve escaped it
I am forever grateful
I’ve fought hard over the years
To survive and the fighting paid off
I will never give in to this horrible disease
That takes far too many lives every day
Remission does not mean it won’t come back
If it does, I will do battle again
I’m proof of that
Live each day as if it were your last
Whether you’re battling or not
Life is truly the greatest gift
A.C.V.M.M.B. by Nobbinmaug
Don went to the same coffee shop and sat at the same table. He sipped his coffee and played with his phone. No calls. No texts. He saw the same people, but no one spoke to him.
When his drink was gone, he returned to his empty apartment.
He went back the next day. This time, he was greeted by a wave and a smile.
“Hi, Don. Apple cinnamon vanilla matcha macchiato blend?”
He looked up, smiled shyly, and said, “Yes, please. Thanks, Alice.”
She gave him the greatest gift of all, an apple cinnamon vanilla matcha macchiato blend.
Fire Within by Reena Saxena
She quit the family business to start something of her own. It’s not an easy task. She had always worked in a well-defined structure. The absolute freedom she has now, excites as well as unnerves her.
“I saw the angel in the marble, and carved till I set him free,” famously said Michelangelo of his epic statue of David.
There are not just miles, but light years to go, before she reaches her destination. The greatest gift she is born with, is her hunger for perfection and the ability to see that angel in the marble – her fiery soul.
The Greatest Gift by Miriam Hurdle
“It’s easier for me to give than to receive.”
“I know, Martha. When you receive, you feel weak.”
“You’re right, I feel helpless and vulnerable and admit other people are stronger.”
“Being able to receive gifts is a gift. When we receive gifts from others, we give them a gift of giving.”
“I never thought of it. When I receive a gift, I feel obligated to precipitate and feel guilty when the chances to return the favors become impossible.”
“The movie Pay It Forward comforts me and changed my understanding of giving.”
“I can tell it’s a great concept.”
Make Mine Music by Di @ pensitivity101
Mine is something I was born with, courtesy of my father.
As a young child, it was fun playing duets with my Dad on Mum’s old piano, then I started to play both parts. Dad always encouraged me, and my gift from him was the gift of music without music, a good ear to pick out a melody and transform it to suit my own style.
My aunts and uncles never knew I could play until a wedding in 1970. My grandfather stood proud and nodded to everyone
‘That’s my grand daughter.’
Happy times, memorable songs, my gift still apparent.
Old Friends by TN Kerr
She was sixty-three years old that year, but age didn’t deter from her excitement about the gaily wrapped gifts staged beneath the tree. There was one though, that stood out. The wrapping was heavy brown paper. Once wrinkled, but now rubbed smooth, it was an old shopping bag from The Seventh Street Market. A store that had closed almost forty years ago. She’d saved this gift for last and cradled it in her hands turning it over and over. It was rather diminutive, not large.
Neatly lettered in the corner she could read: “Happy Christmas, Clarissa – With Love, Hayley.”
Life’s Greatest Gift by Sally Cronin
Thomas prowled the corridors of the care home as its residents slept. During the day he would jump from lap to lap, rubbing gnarled hands with his head, accepting tender touches and morsels of food, hoarded and saved for his visit. For many he became the family they no longer knew, and was adored.
The cat slipped through a door left ajar, and approaching the bed, he leapt onto the pillow. Thomas purred gently into the old woman’s ear. She sighed and gave one last gentle breath, accepting the greatest gift in life of being loved until its end.
Repeat by Kelley Farrell
Life can twist our minds and rip dreams away
But in some moments we find
The greatest gift is perhaps not physical
But a moment in time
When we no longer have to be held to the reality of who others believe we are.
That moment wrapped in a lovers arms, the true idea of home dancing through every sensation.
Or a moment alone with nothing more than a breath and a soft whisper for patience.
Libations given in sacrifice of every moment thereafter.
When we come under fire we close our eyes willing ourselves to aim higher.
Slingin’ Words Fer People by D. Avery
“Pal, is’t true this Ranch’s a literary community?”
“Reckon so, Kid. Open ta one an’ all.”
“So is it a gated community?”
“Heck no. No gates, no borders. Free range writin’ fer anyone who wants ta play. Long’s they play nice a course.”
“Are there boundaries?”
“Jist in the word count, 99, no more, no less. Otherwise, it’s a place fer boundless imagination.”
“Why’s it always me gits imagined shovelin’ out the barn?”
“Shovelin’ shit’s yer special gift Kid. Yer real good at slingin’ it.”
“Yeah well, someone should imagine Shorty slingin’ bacon.”
“Tough shit, Kid. She’s slingin’ carrots.”