After I graduated from college, I spent a year teaching English in South Korea. It was a magical year, and really awakened me to my love of teaching. It’s been over 5 years since I returned now, but I still try to teach in some form or fashion as much as I can.

In Atlanta, one of the easiest ways to teach is through an ESL (English as a Second Language) program. English learners abound in spades, and groups are always looking for passionate and qualified teachers. 

I’ve been teaching at various places ever since I returned from Korea 5 years ago. It never fails to surprise me how much I can learn from my students. 

For example, the other day one of my students gave me a gift, as a thank-you for teaching her. It was this huge box of premium chocolates, along with a sweet little note. It was so thoughtful and unexpected, it nearly made me cry!

As I went home that day, savoring my chocolate and feeling oh-so-very blessed, I thought about how I could transfer that feeling of surprised elation to my guests. 

There’s something special about receiving a surprise gift. Birthday and Christmas presents are nice, but they’re very much expected. Most people, in fact, will actually be disappointed if they don’t get a gift from family and close friends on those occasions. But you can’t be disappointed about a gift you weren’t expecting, which leaves room only for surprise and delight when it’s given to you. 

The gifts that you’re not looking for are the ones that make the biggest impressions. 

Like the box of chocolates my student gave me, or the care package from my aunt that arrived out of the blue, or the card and flowers waiting for us in the room at a retreat my husband and I went on. 

I try to incorporate this concept into the spaces I host, as well. Everyone is expecting a clean bathroom, comfortable bed, etc. Those are givens.

What they aren’t expecting is a bottle of wine, or a basket of snacks, or a personalized welcome note. These are the little things that surprise and delight, the little things that make all the difference. The thoughtful touches that catch your guests off-guard in the best of ways. These are the things that really make you stand out.

What little things are you doing to go above and beyond?