What inspires you? Inspiration comes from a Latin word which means to “breathe life into” or to “animate.” I get inspired by an unexpected, completely generous act of kindness. I watched a man stop four lanes of traffic that passed through a residential neighborhood in order to allow a puppy to cross. Then, he drove away. It was not his dog.

We are inspired by unique scenes—a perfect rainbow, the laughter of a baby, a parent teaching their young child to pitch, or a shopper helping an elderly stranger load packages in a car. Great art work, a moving ceremony, an amazing movie and a breathtaking piece of music can inspire us. We feel uplifted, ennobled and enriched.

This is the season of giving. Underneath the glitz of holiday decoration, the constant reminder of shopping days running out and the commercial pressure to spend more lies a heritage of giving. And, while most gifts please us, a few inspire us.

Avis Bell is a child of the depression. She happens to be my 97 year-old mother. Her stories of living through the worst economic times of the last century are peppered with joyful memories of special Christmases when there was no money to buy gifts. Handmade original surprises had to replace store-bought. The restriction forced the giver to think about the uniqueness of the recipient; it enabled the receiver to appreciate the “labor of love” over the “expediency of purchase.” It inspired.

My business partner and I were in midtown Manhattan and hailed a taxi. “Thank you for stopping,” we said to the pilot of the cab. “We are running late and need to quickly get to 51st and Madison.” The taxi driver asked if we wanted to hear music; we agreed. He continued: “Would you like to hear music like you have never heard before?” We suddenly felt we were on a musical adventure. “I am from India and this is a mix I created myself.” He began to narrate the music we were hearing as the taxi weaved through early morning New York City traffic. He was as passionate about his driving as he was his musical creation.

When we arrived at our destination and were paying the fare, he handed us a copy of the CD and proudly announced, “This is my gift to you; I hope I’ll see you again.” His name and phone number were handwritten on the cover. I have heard all the stories about struggling musicians using taxi driving as their day job. I know the cynical side of our driver’s gesture. But, I also know how we were inspired by his gift.

Innovative service is a hand-made original surprise. Its originality and imagination telegraph an innate commitment to excellence. Its “hand-made” distinction signals an unmistakable spotlight on the customer. And, like that perfect rainbow or symphony, it leaves us astonished, affirmed…and, inspired. This season, give your customers a gift that inspires.