When I think of heartfelt gifts and giving, the word charity pops into my head. Giving to others in need is the ultimate heartfelt gift.

I grew up without a lot of money, and that has influenced how I feel about giving. For me, heartfelt gifts show someone that you care.

So, Christmas and kids notwithstanding, I don’t just give gifts because I’m supposed to. I only give heartfelt gifts that are thoughtful and that mean something.

I’ve always felt that way. When my best friend through junior high and high school gave me a card that featured a pastel painting of a little boy and girl walking as they held hands, I recreated that picture. Then I gave him the canvas I had painted as a present. I knew that card had obviously touched him as much as it had me, and this was my way of showing how much I appreciated him.

When I was starting to make money while in Japan, where I had moved to experience life abroad, my mom came to visit me. She had never had anything, and I was now in a position to change that. So I ordered her a basic wardrobe online and laid out all the outfits on my bed. Then I brought her into the bedroom. She couldn’t believe it. Her reaction meant everything to me.

Sometimes how I present the gift is almost as important as the gift itself. After my husband Kenny and I started dating, I bought a series of porcelain hearts with a different word—including faith, love, hope, dream, family and trust—written on each. Then I got a series of nesting boxes, placed a single heart in every box and packed the boxes one inside the other along with a very personal note about how each particular word related to him and/or us. Of course, he loved that.

Two months later, Kenny packed up those same hearts in the nesting boxes, along with his own notes, and gave them back to me. In the final little box, I found a ring.

Talk about a heartfelt gift!