One of my favourite gifts I ever received as a child was a stone gargoyle from my dad. I must have been 9 or 10 at the time. The gargoyle’s name is Dedo. He has pointy ears and almond shaped eyes, and he wears a friendly smile on his face. He sits hunched over, hugging his knees up beneath his chin. But perhaps his most interesting feature is his human-like feet, and the way he sits with one big toe crossed over the other.
Dedo is far from just an ordinary gargoyle. He’s far from just an ordinary gift.
Dedo comes with a story.
It’s his story that made me fall in love with him as a young girl. It’s his story that saved him from disappearing during the massive purges I have done over the years. And it’s his story that led him to his current position on the shelf in my office, decades later.
Dedo’s story dates back to year 1160, when the Notre Dame Cathedral was built. The structure was designed with menacing gargoyles, which were placed at the top of the building to ward off evil spirits. But a nun from a small convent in Provence disliked the ominous figures, and decided to do something about it.
So she disguised herself as a workman to gain entrance into the Cathedral work site. Working in a hurry in efforts to avoid being found out, she quickly carved a new sculpture from a small stone block on site, and then placed it on the highest roof of the building.
For centuries the gargoyle went unnoticed. Until one day a small boy, who was lost in the labyrinthine structure, stumbled off a ledge and rolled down the roof. He was heading straight for the 300-foot drop below, when suddenly, the neck of his shirt was snagged on the pointy ear of Dedo the gargoyle.
The boy was saved.
From this day on, Dedo became known as the gargoyle with the crossed toes. And people began keeping a statue of Dedo in their homes as a good luck charm, where he could watch over their children.
Stories are powerful. Stories are persuasive. And guess what?
This time of year is full of stories.
It’s part of the reason we love it so much. We hang ornaments on the tree, thinking back to where we were when we first collected them, describing their significance to our partners and friends, so they can share in our nostalgia.
We wrap the gifts and place them beneath the tree, picturing our loved ones as they tear off the paper we trimmed and taped so cautiously, excited smiles painted across their faces.
And the best gifts – the ones we recall for years to come – are the ones that come with a story.
After all, it’s not the hand-knitted scarf or the little red fire truck we remember; it’s the way it made us feel.
There’s an NPR episode that was released back in 2009 called “Significant Objects: A Doll with a Story.” In it, a man named Joshua Glenn talks about an experiment he launched to see if he could take junk – like an ugly, plastic Russian doll with a big cloth mustache – and turn it into something valuable simply by adding a story.
He bought the Russian doll at a thrift store for 3 dollars. After hiring a writer to come up with a back-story, they put the doll up on eBay. It sold it for a winning bid of $193.
Glenn’s story is not about selling junk. It’s about finding magic in unexpected things.
So, what magic can you find and share this holiday season?
Think long and hard about the products and services you’re offering. Why do people want to buy them? What is it that convinces them to come to you, over all the other vendors in your industry?
At the end of the day, it’s about a lot more than a trend or a price tag. It’s about how you make people feel. This is what makes your product or service memorable. This is what makes your customers want to share it with their family and friends.
And it’s exactly what inspires you to wake up in the morning and do it all over again.