The Perfect Gift

December 23, 2011

What is the perfect gift? Ask a hundred people, and you'll get a hundred different answers. But when you give one, or receive one -- you know it.

I received one of those gifts thirty years ago. I still carry it with me today.

The summer of 1981 was magical for me. I'd pedaled across the U.S. with my best buddy Thomas. The sense of accomplishment was amazing. My connection to the world around me had never been so raw and wonderful.

But coming home after an adventure can be a tough transition. I'd taken a quarter off from the junior college I was attending. I'd been taking general education courses with no particular focus (Astronomy, Geology, English Comp, Theater, Business Math, etc.)

On my bike trip, I knew exactly (well, almost) where I was going. In life ... I was lost. Too many options, and none of them was presenting itself as my future major, let alone my future.

I was talking with my mom. I babbled about my frustrations, and lack of any focus.

She looked me in the eye and said, "I want you to know something. Whether you become a biologist, or an actor, or a teacher ... or whether you put a pack on your back and wander the world for the rest of your life ... I want you to know that I consider you a success."

That was it. In twenty seconds, my mom had given me the perfect gift. It was as if she had given me a magical gift certificate. I didn't have to worry about what I did. I just needed to fill in the gift card with whatever my heart desired.

Little did my mother know how literally I'd take her words. Though I've used panniers instead of a pack.

And it hasn't all been bicycle travel. I've driven trucks, acted on stage, waited tables, fought forest fires, written columns, and tried many other pursuits.

But no matter what I've done, I've always known that in the heart of one of the most important people in my life, I've been a success.

Thanks, Mom.

Merry Christmas.


Photo by Willie Weir

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road, and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at


kristopher M December 23, 2011, 10:33 PM

Bob is so right, its not always about the gift. To me it more about the thought of giving and how useful each gift is to that an individual. Does not matter how much you spend on an individual, because that one gift that cost less could have just as significant impact as that expensive gift. Keep in mind around the holidays NOBODY ranks higher over another individual and keep in mind those people that have a direct impact on your lifestyle.

Bob Rogers December 23, 2011, 3:59 PM

My mother didn't use those words, but it came through her love and acceptance of my wandering career choices. I was a winner in her eyes until the day she died. And you know, she was right. Pass it one. Make someone, anyone you know or meet, feel like a winner. They are.

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