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Our best gifts list of 2018. There are no socks on it.

By Lenora Rand, SmallGood Co-founder

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

Ah, December… The time of year when the days get shorter, the nights get colder and we can’t even with the snow.

It’s also a time where some of us get all end-of-year-reflective, and start asking questions like: “What have I accomplished in the last 12 months?” Which can lead to questions like, “What have I ever accomplished in the larger scheme of things?” Ugh.

Then of course, if you look at Facebook or Twitter or the evening news these days you can also find yourself screaming: “Why is the world so messed up? Are things ever going to get better?” (Of course, December isn’t the only time you might find yourself asking these questions, but because of the shorter days/longer/colder nights issue, sometimes they can take on a more intense and desperate flavor.)

So, I guess, it’s not surprising that this is also the time of year when we do everything we can to get some festive spirit going. Because who among us doesn’t long to climb into a sparkly, tinsel-lined, happy little holiday cocoon right about now?

Many companies do their part to help their employees out of these dark days of December by hosting holiday parties -- always a good distraction. Food! Booze! People You Work With Embarrassing Themselves In Public!

And then if all else fails, we sometimes just buy a lot of stuff to try to find the happy in the holidays. I get about 20 catalogs a day in the mail.

Not exaggerating.

And believe me I can easily get lost in all those “best gifts of 2018 lists” you can find online– like this one from the Today Show and this one from Elle Magazine and of course, this one from Oprah – by the way, I hear her favorite gifts this year include 50 under $50!

The National Retail Federation did a study that found Americans are primed to spend more money on gifts in 2018 than they did last year. And 33% expect to spend at least $1000 on gifts.


I definitely believe there’s something kind of potent about these days around the Winter Solstice…some kind of primal fear that rises up inside us, whether we realize it or not, along with a little extra dose of sadness brought on by lack of sun and warmth. And sometimes I feel like maybe, what we are really looking for most right now (besides our warm slippers) is hope.

So I decided to make my own list of best gifts for 2018 – but instead of tech toys or “must have holiday gifts under $25 for everyone on your list…” this one is a list of the gifts of hope I’ve been seeing/feeling/finding/receiving lately. Gifts I’ve already gotten, that I just need to unwrap and enjoy a bit more.

Gift of Hope # 1

Here at SmallGood, the advertising strategy and creative consultancy my partner Mylene and I started 18 months ago, we have had the privilege this past year of teaming up with folks at The Institute for Nonviolence Chicago. This local, feet-on-the-ground nonprofit is working to end the deadly violence that plagues our city. Nonviolence Chicago staff are out on the streets every single day putting their own bodies on the line, intervening when violence happens, teaching and practicing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s principles of nonviolence. And their efforts have been playing a key role in reducing violence in neighborhoods throughout this city. Not only did gun violence decrease in Chicago in 2017, it’s on track to be down even further in 2018. Which truly gives me hope.

Gift of Hope #2

Another charity we’ve partnered with this year, A Giving Heart Foundation, has been working on an issue that doesn’t get much attention, but that really needs some – 1 in 100 kids are born with congenital heart disease every year, but 99% of the funding is going to adult heart research. Which means babies are being forced to have traumatic open-heart surgeries, and kids aren’t getting the support they need to deal with the physical and developmental issues this disease causes. The doctors being funded by AGHF are close to having a dissolvable stent for kids. This family-founded foundation, made up of passionate volunteers working to make sure every child has a chance at childhood, is bringing hope to lots of families. It has been a real gift of hope to me this year too.

Gift of Hope # 3

Nestidd, a company that buys, customizes and leases houses so that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can have real homes in a community, became one of our first clients at SmallGood. We helped them develop and launch their brand last year and this year we’ve been helping them live out their meaning and purpose in the world even more loudly and clearly, taking on issues and taking a stand. The two millennials who started this business and the folks they’ve brought around them inspire us with their creativity and commitment to building a great business that’s good for the world. Social entrepreneurs, making money and making a difference, at the same time – it doesn’t get much more hopeful than that.

Gift of Hope #4

We started working with another social enterprise this year that’s all about changing the world… one plant at a time. City Grange, started by visionary gardener, author and teacher LaManda Joy, who has years of nonprofit urban gardening under her fingernails, is set to open an online store and a brick and mortar location in the next year. All with the goal of helping people experience the revolutionary joy and life-changing possibilities of organic gardening. This founder’s passion for growing not only plants, but communities, and desire to leave the world more savory, more beautiful, and healthier than she found it, is sewing seeds of hope in me.

Gift of Hope #5

You don't have to be a nonprofit or social enterprise to grow more good in the world. One of the for-profit, founder-led companies we've been privileged to partner with this year, KidSnips, has proven that to us, again and again.

A Chicago-area hair salon made just for kids, this business was started by a couple moms 20 years ago to help make haircuts a little less scary and a lot more fun for all kinds of squiggly, squirmy kids - and life a little easier for their parents. They've also committed themselves to making their salons a place where kids with autism and other special needs can come to get their hair done by stylists who've been specially trained to help them feel safe and understood.

In a world where so many people are made to feel like they don't matter, and don't belong, this has been a hopeful highlight.

Funny thing about starting a list like this…once you start, it’s hard to stop. So yeah, I could go on and on…but I won’t. Instead, what I will do is suggest you might want to start a Gifts of Hope List of your own.

It’s certainly making me feel a little merrier and brighter. And less inclined to eat ALL the Christmas cookies.

Or to spend way too much money on this year’s most highly-acclaimed socks.

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