“The greatest gift you can give someone is the space to be themselves, without the threat of you leaving.”

Kai Greene

Jeremy, a dear friend of mine, has a peculiar passion. No, he doesn’t juggle flaming torches or knit sweaters for squirrels. Instead, he collects elephant statuettes. Every time I visit his home—and in particular, his home office—I’m greeted by a parade of these miniature pachyderms, each one uniquely poised, from the regal to the downright whimsical.

Now, Jeremy and I have shared countless conversations over the years, from our favorite pizza toppings to the existential dread of adulthood. But we’ve never broached the topic of his elephantine obsession. Not once. I’ve always been curious, of course. What draws a grown man to collect tiny elephants? Was it a childhood memory? A spiritual connection? Or perhaps a deep-seated desire to run away and join the circus?

But here’s the thing: I never felt the need to ask. Jeremy’s collection, in all its silent majesty, spoke volumes about the man himself. It hinted at a depth, a sensitivity, a reverence for the small wonders of the world. And in a way, those elephants became a symbol of our friendship—a testament to the beauty of accepting someone, quirks and all, without needing an explanation.

The truth is that the greatest gift we can give someone isn’t a tiny elephant (though, if you’re friends with Jeremy, it might be). It’s the space to be themselves, without the looming cloud of judgment or the threat of abandonment. It’s the freedom to laugh at your own jokes, read the last page of a book first, or dance like no one’s watching—even when everyone is.

Now, I’m not suggesting we all start an elephant statuette collection (though, if you do, send me a picture). But I am suggesting that we embrace the quirks, the oddities, and the eccentricities of those around us. Because in doing so, we not only give them the gift of acceptance, but we also give ourselves the gift of a richer, more colorful life.

So, the next time you’re tempted to raise an eyebrow at someone’s unique hobby or passion, remember Jeremy and his elephants. And instead of questioning it, maybe just ask, “Where can I get one?”

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.