A woman who lived far beyond eight decades had been in the habit of having a birthday party every year. Her friends and relatives always remembered her with little gifts, usually knickknacks for her house.

As she was getting ready for her 90th birthday party, a friend asked her what gift she wanted for her birthday that year.

"Give me a kiss," was her reply. "Then I won't have to dust it."

Yes, I know that's not always a safe option in these COVID times. But you get the idea.

Creative gift-giving is an art.

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Strive for a gift that shows you have taken the trouble to pay attention to the recipient and have a genuine interest in them. Price isn't important; sometimes the best gifts cost little or nothing, because they come from the heart.

I recently came across a list of priceless, useful, thoughtful gifts anyone can give, and, better yet, they are all free. I guarantee the recipient will love them.

The gift of listening. No interrupting, rushing the speaker, letting your attention wander or finishing the speaker's thoughts. No planning your responses or trying to top the speaker's story. Just listen.

Good listeners steer conversations toward other people's interests. When you feel you are being listened to, it makes you feel like you are being taken seriously and that what you say really matters. And remember, you can't learn anything when you are doing the talking.

The gift of affection. Be generous with appropriate pats on the back, hand-holding, hugs and even kisses, like the 90-year-old woman preferred. (Again, keep pandemic recommendations in mind.) Find a way to show your love, especially when so many people are craving human contact.

The gift of support. Show your co-workers that you care by empathizing with them, and displaying concern and understanding. Be compassionate and try to build deeper relationships. Try to anticipate needs, and help when needed and wanted. Just be interested in others.

The gift of laughter. Share articles, positive news, funny stories and cartoons to tell someone "I love to laugh with you." Laughter makes you healthier and feel better. A laugh a day keeps the doctor away. Maybe people should take a humor or joke break -- instead of just a coffee break.

The gift of a compliment. Everyone likes a hearty "well done." Who doesn't love to receive compliments? They make everyone feel better.

Compliments not only reassure people, they create positive energy, strengthen relationships and build trust. They are a sign of respect. You don't need to be an expert at giving compliments. You just need to be sincere and genuine.

The gift of solitude. Be sensitive to the times when others want nothing more than to be left alone. Solitude does not mean loneliness. It's natural to feel overwhelmed at times, so time alone can be refreshing.

The gift of joy. Be happy and joyful whenever you can. Your mood should never turn into gloom and doom for others.

One of my favorite authors, Norman Vincent Peale, said: "Joy increases as you give it, and diminishes as you try to keep it yourself. In giving it, you will accumulate a deposit of joy greater than you ever believed possible."

The gift of friendship. Without friends, life would hardly be worth living, so let your friends know just how much they mean to you today. I've always felt that the best vitamin for developing friends is B1.

I can't imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn't had such loyal and true friends. I am fortunate to number among my friends several classmates from first grade, as well as people I just met. My friends have saved my bacon over and over again. A few have actually saved my life.

The gift of your smile. A simple smile breaks all the barriers of language and culture. The more you smile, the happier other people around you feel. Never underestimate the value of a smile.

People all over the world smile in the same language. A smile should be standard equipment for all people, both at work and at home. It takes only 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown -- so really, you have no excuse. Put on a happy face!

Mackay's Moral: Gifts that are freely given are worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox.

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached at www.harveymackay.com, by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.