It’s the season of gift giving, of family and friends and good food. We may not always remember what we gave or how a gift was received, but we can all recall special gifts and how they made us feel.
In the spirit of the season, we asked the FIU community: What is the best gift you ever received?
Barker’s keyboard is still a prized possession.
In 2008, I walked past our Christmas tree every day for a week, getting more and more excited about the big box with my name on it. Finally the morning arrived and there it was: a Yamaha keyboard. I couldn’t wait to set it up and start playing. The first song I learned was either “When The Saints Go Marching In” or “Jingle Bells.” I believe that may just have been the best Christmas ever.
— Kelsie-Ann Barker, Freshman, Biology
The best gifts don’t always fit in a box, and for me education is the best gift. Thanks to my parents and their hard work, I’ve had the privilege of a great education. They’ve both worked so hard to support my sister and me through all our studies, which has motivated me to do well in school and make them proud.
— Yovani Larreynaga, Junior, Psychology
Azambuja with her mother in France in fall 2013.
A college friend next to Lunsford’s ’69 Ford Mustang, circa 1972.
Back around 1972 when I was in college, my dad bought me a used 1969 Ford Mustang. Prior to that, I had this old, ugly gray Plymouth Valiant with push-button controls on the dash. It was so ugly that my fraternity brothers wouldn’t let me park it in front of our house. So when my dad bought me the Mustang, I was in heaven! I kept it for years. Finally, around 1980 I sold it and bought another “cool” car, a Datsun 280Z.
— Larry Lunsford, Vice President for Student Affairs and University Ombudsman
Travel is the best gift. My mother gave me my first overseas excursion: a visit to London, England, a month shy of starting high school. She is a firm believer that you learn more by traveling than by doing anything else, and the chance to wander and experience culture has definitely allowed me to grow. Since then, Paris, London, Athens and Pompeii are just a few of the trips I’ve taken.
— Jessica Azambuja ’13
Siskind’s grandson performs for her birthday.
One of the best gifts I ever received was a classical piano concert from my 8-year-old grandson. Ben wanted to give me something personal for my birthday. He came up to me during the party and said “Decca [his nickname for me], I have a special birthday present for you. I know it all by heart, but since it’s your birthday I want to make sure it’s perfect.” He then took out the sheet music and played three pieces for me, including “Ode to Joy.”
— Jessica Siskind ’04, Senior Director of Development, Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management
My favorite gift was a mini basketball hoop that my parents gave me for Christmas. It was a six-foot rim. There were so many times as a little kid where I’d see Michael Jordan or someone else hit an amazing shot in the waning seconds of a game on TV. Inspired, I’d go out to my garage, even though it was only 30 degrees, and shoot around for hours trying to perfect my fade-away. And, of course, I was counting down an imaginary game clock with every shot.
— Kevin Evans, Assistant Professor of Political Science
A souvenir illustration of Jimenez (right) and a friend from a recent road trip.
I like scrapbooks with memories and photos of good times. The most recent one was from a friend and chronicled a week of fun and adventures with pictures, quotes and inside jokes from our Miami-to-New York road trip. When I look at it, it makes me want to have another week like that again.
— Epi Jimenez, Senior, Computer Engineering
When I was about five years old, my siblings and I all got a stuffed animal for Christmas. My brother received a life-sized lion, my sister a colorful worm, and I received a pair of polar bears. I am not sure how it was decided who got which toy, but they became part of the family and we played with them forever and ever. My parents still keep those polar bears in my old room in their house in Germany. When I see them on return visits home, they bring back fond memories.
— Birgitta Rausch-Montoto MS ’13, Chief of Staff, Office of the Provost
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Vol. 15, No. 1 November 2010
"The Greatest Gift I Ever Gave"
In the last issue we asked young people in foster care what the best gift they ever gave was, and what made it such a good gift. Here’s what they had to say.
—John McMahon, Editor
* * * * * * *
by Felicia, age 15
The best gift that I ever gave anyone would have to be to my new mom. I gave her my heart in love and all she really wanted from me was good behavior.
I showed her good behavior by being kind and respectful and by following the rules. I am not perfect—sometimes I make mistakes—but from my heart, I really want to do what is right.
I am thankful for Ms. Anitta, my foster mom, for helping me through giving me a warm, loving, nurturing home. I appreciate her guidance and encouraging me to go for my dreams. It really makes a difference in one’s life when you know that someone is rooting for you. I would also like to give a big shout out to the other two ladies in my life, Ms. Maria and Ms. Priscilla, who are other foster moms in my life.
I am blessed: I have at least three people who care about me. It feels so good to love and to be loved. Felicia received $100 for winning first prize.!
Felicia ’s essay won first prize, for which she was awarded $100.
* * * * * * *
by Bianca, age 16
I had a little foster sister and I taught her how to ride her bike. This was the best gift because this is something that she will know how to do for a lifetime. When she is older she will teach her kids how to do this, and so on. It makes me feel good that I taught someone a lifetime skill and it makes me feel good when I see her riding her bike up and down the road cause I can say “I did that, I taught her how to ride a bike.” Maybe, just maybe, when she’s older and teaching her kids or anyone else to ride a bike she will remember that I taught her! Bianca received $50 for winning second prize..
Bianca’s essay won second prize, for which she was awarded $50.
* * * * * * *
Donisha, age 16
The best gift I ever gave someone was friendship. Bradford was a tall, light-skinned fellow with big ears, a big nose, braces, and a monkey face. . . . In my eyes he was the perfect dork . . . . I was so popular I felt untouchable—I thought I was all that and a bag of chips. Then one day my pre-algebra teacher made us do partner work. . . . From that very moment we became the greatest of friends.
We came from two different worlds. His parents were middle class and he had very fine belongings. I grew up with little I could call my own. He was subtle, timid, and kind of quiet; he only spoke when spoken to, but smiled a lot. I was just the opposite—loud, outgoing, and hardly ever shy. But once I started talking to Brad, I found out what a sweet and funny guy he was. . . .
Brad and I became inseparable. We would always pick each other for partner work, sit by each other, and walk with each other. Brad even sat at the girls’ table at lunch just so he could talk to me. We were truly best friends. . . .
Because of getting to know Brad, I will never assume anything about another person. . . . Because of me, I believe Brad became a better, less timid person. I know he sure changed me. . . . Friendship is the greatest gift you can ever give someone—it leaves one with such great memories and fun times.
Donisha’s essay won third prize, for which she was awarded $25.
* * * * * * *
The Greatest Gift I've Given
The young people below each received $15 for having their letters published.
The best gift I ever gave someone was love, because it’s unconditional and unspeakable and people are really happy when you give and show them love. They respect you more, because loves shows respect, peacefulness, and happiness.
—Talik, age 12
I gave my dad a drawing . . . he likes to put it on his wall so he can look at it and be proud of me. . . . It was a good gift because I put effort into drawing it.
—Zachary, age 9
When I gave Kate my friendship, she gave me hers in return. It was the best gift because we need each other. . . . We have SO much fun together!
—Jayna, age 12
On Mother’s Day I gave my step-mom (who is really my foster mom), Mrs. Inez, three beautiful pairs of earrings and a gorgeous silver bracelet. . . . As she opened the box, I noticed this huge smile on her face and a bright sparkle in her eyes. They looked like diamonds in the moonlit sky. I could clearly see and tell that she really loved the gifts. She gave me a huge hug, thanked me, and said she would always treasure this gift. . . . I am so thankful to have Mrs. Inez and her family in my life.
—Heather, age 14
When I was still with my mother. . . . I failed the 1st grade because I couldn’t read.
So in my second year of first grade I was really not that good, in the beginning. At school we had an award ceremony. . . .I was as nervous as can be, but I should not have worried, because I got best improved!
. . . . I looked at my mom, who was in the back. She was crying and holding my grandma’s hand. She was so happy because it meant she was a good mom and was doing something right. I didn’t understand it then, but the best gift you can give somebody is love and happiness. This all happened about 4 weeks before my mom died of diabetes.
. . . . The one thing that keeps me going is the fact that at one time somebody loved me very much and I gave them the best present life can give.
The best gift I’ve given someone would have to be me....[because] God gave me a package of great abilities, such as making people smile, helping other people, and being a good friend to someone.
—Anthony, age 15
* * * * * * *
By Kodi, age 17
We catch so many things in our life
Like bugs, and balls, bad colds
Someone special’s attention
We even sometimes “Catch a Hint”
But my favorite thing to catch is memories
I’ll catch them in the net of my heart and mind
Put them in a jar
On my windowsill at night
And call them fireflies
So let’s run for tonight
Like children pursuing butterflies
We’ll forget about who we are
And not overthink who we might become
We’ll spend the night, our money, our time together
Caught up in a hug, a kiss
A smile, a lie
Then we’ll dance
You’ll make me laugh
I’ll make you smile
You’ll catch my eye
I’ll catch your heart
You’ll hold my hand
And we’ll swear never to tell
We’ll wake up in the morning
With our identities in our hands
A tingle on our skin
And an image in our heads we can’t seem to shake
Maybe one day we’ll call it our past or a mistake
Or just another crazy night
’Cause we’re young and we can
But for now
Let’s take a walk outside
Put our love in a jar
On the windowsill at night
And call them memories.
Kodi received $15 for having her poem published.
* * * * * * *
My shell is not like this
My eyes follow with delight
The shape of my life today
Starts with my family
I ran away and left my shell
Did not like my life
But now my family is here
Back in my life
Now it’s back
I can be me
And be with my family
Aliyah received $15 for having her poem published.
Copyright � 2010 Jordan Institute for Families