Red Stevens has died, and the older members of his family receive their millions with greedy anticipation. But a different fate awaits young Jason, who his great-uncle Stevens believed might be the last vestige of hope in the family.
"Although to date your life seems to be a sorry excuse for anything I would call promising, there does seem to be a spark of something in you that I hope we can fan into a flame. For that reason, I am not making you an instant millionaire."
What Red Stevens does gives Jason is the ultimate gift.
|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
In spite of blindness, Jim Stovall has been a National Olympic weightlifting champion, a successful investment broker, the president of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network, and a highly sought-after author and platform speaker. He has written forty books, including the bestseller, The Ultimate Gift, which became a major motion picture from 20th Century Fox, starring James Garner and Abigail Breslin. Jim has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, and has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, and CBS Evening News. He was also chosen as the International Humanitarian of the Year, joining Jimmy Carter, Nancy Reagan, and Mother Teresa as recipients of this honor.
Read an Excerpt
The Ultimate Gift
By Jim Stovall
David C. CookCopyright © 2001 Jim Stovall
All rights reserved.
In the Beginning
A journey may be long or short, but it must start at the very spot one finds oneself.
It was in my fifty-third year of practicing law, and my eightieth year of life here on this earth, that I was to undertake an odyssey that would change my life forever.
I was seated behind my mahogany monstrosity of a desk in my top-floor, corner office of an imposing building in the most prominent section of Boston. In the marble foyer, the antique brass plate on the outer door reads Hamilton, Hamilton, & Hamilton. Of the aforementioned, I am the first Hamilton—Theodore J. Hamilton, to be accurate. My son and grandson account for the remainder of the Hamiltons in the firm.
I would not say that we are the most prestigious law firm in all of Boston, because that would not be totally circumspect. However, if someone else were to say that, I would not go out of my way to disagree.
As I was simply drinking in the ambiance in my antiquated but palatial office, I was thinking how far I had come since the lean days in law school. I enjoyed gazing upon my wall of fame, which includes photographs taken of me with the last five presidents of the United States, among other significant persons.
I glanced at the familiar sight of floor-to-ceiling shelves of leather-bound books, the massive oriental rug, and the classic leather furniture, all of which predate me. My enjoyment in simply experiencing the familiar environment was interrupted when the telephone on my desk buzzed. I heard the reliable and familiar voice of Margaret Hastings. "Sir," she said, "may I step in and have a word with you?"
As we had been working together for more than forty years, I knew that tone was reserved for the most serious and somber of circumstances.
"Come in, please," I replied immediately.
Miss Hastings entered promptly, securing the door behind her, and sat across the desk from me. She had not brought her calendar, her correspondence, or documents of any type. I was trying to remember the last time Margaret had entered my inner sanctum without some baggage, when she said without preamble or delay, "Mr. Hamilton, Red Stevens just died."
When you get to be an octogenarian, you grow as accustomed as one can to losing friends and family. But some of the losses hit you harder than others. This one shook me to my core. Amid all of the emotions and memories that flooded over me, I realized that I would have to do what Red would expect of me, which was simply to do my job.
I shifted into my lawyer mode and told Miss Hastings, "We will need to contact all of the family members, the various corporate boards and business interests, and be ready to control the media circus that will begin any minute."
Miss Hastings stood up and said, "I'll handle everything." She quickly walked to the door and then hesitated a moment. After an uncomfortable pause, during which I realized Margaret Hastings and I were crossing that line that divides professional and personal, she said quietly, "Mr. Hamilton, I am sorry for your loss."
Miss Hastings closed the door and left me alone with my thoughts.
* * *
Two weeks later, I found myself at the head of our massive conference table with all of Red Stevens' various relatives gathered around. The feeling of anticipation—bordering on greed—was almost a physical presence in the room.
Knowing Red's feelings toward the majority of his relatives, I knew he would want me to prolong their misery as long as possible. Therefore, I had Margaret offer everyone coffee, tea, or soft drinks along with anything else she could think of. I scanned and rescanned the voluminous documents before me and cleared my throat multiple times. Finally, realizing that I was stretching the bounds of propriety, I rose to my feet and addressed the motley assemblage.
"Ladies and gentlemen, as you know, we are here to read the last will and testament of Howard 'Red' Stevens. I realize that this is a difficult time for all of us and that our personal losses individually far outweigh any legal or financial concerns we might have this morning."
I knew that wherever he was, Red would enjoy the irony.
"I will dispense with the preliminaries, the boilerplate, and the legalese, and will go directly to the issues at hand. Red Stevens was a very successful man in every sense of that word. His bequests are much as Red was himself—very simple and straightforward.
"I drew up this revised will for Mr. Stevens just over a year ago on his seventy-fifth birthday. I know from our subsequent conversations that this document does, indeed, reflect his final wishes. I will read directly from his will, and you will realize as I read that while this document is totally legal and binding, some of the passages are in Red's own words.
"To my eldest son, Jack Stevens, I leave my first company, Panhandle Oil and Gas. At the writing of this will, Panhandle's worth is somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 million."
Several gasps could be heard from around the table along with one prolonged, audible squeal of glee. I set the document down on the edge of the table and looked over the top of my reading glasses with my most intimidating courtroom stare. After a significant pause, I picked up the will and continued.
"Although Jack will be the sole owner of the company, its management and operations will be left in the hands of Panhandle's board of directors, which has served me so well over so many years. Jack, I want you to know that since you didn't have any interest in the company when I was living, I figured you wouldn't have any interest now that I'm gone. And letting you control something like Panhandle would be like giving a three-year-old a loaded gun. I want you to know that I have instructed Mr. Hamilton to write this will in such a way that if you fight for control or hinder the board or even complain about the nature of my bequest to you, the entire ownership of Panhandle Oil and Gas will immediately go to charity."
I looked up from the will and stared at Jack Stevens. The entire range of possible emotions was displayed on his face. Jack Stevens was a fifty-seven-year-old playboy who had never known the privilege of earning a day's wages. He had no idea of the favor his father had done for him by taking the control of Panhandle Oil and Gas out of his hands. I knew he was feeling that this was just one more time when he failed to live up to his illustrious father's expectations.
I actually felt some pity for Jack as I explained, "Mr. Stevens, the will does direct that each bequest be read in order and that the parties be dismissed after the portion of the document pertaining to them has been read."
He looked at me with a confused expression on his countenance and said, "What?"
At that point, always vigilant Miss Hastings took his arm and said, "Mr. Stevens, I'll escort you to the door."
When everyone had settled back into their chairs, and the level of anticipation had again risen to a fever pitch, I continued.
"To my only daughter, Ruth, I leave the family home and ranch in Austin, Texas, along with all working cattle operations."
Ruth was seated at the far end of the table with her dubious husband and offspring. Even at that distance, the sound of her hands slapping together and greedily rubbing back and forth could be heard. She and her family were so self-absorbed that I do not believe they understood the fact that the entire operation would be managed for them and that they would be kept at arm's length where they could not hurt themselves or anyone else. Miss Hastings promptly showed them from the room.
I cleared my throat and continued. "To my youngest son, and only other remaining child, Bill, I leave the entire holdings of my stock, bond, and investment portfolio. However, Bill, this portfolio will be left in the hands of Mr. Hamilton and his firm to be managed in trust for you and your heirs so that there will be something left to divide when somebody is reading your will someday."
The room continued to clear as each of the more distant relatives received their eagerly awaited windfall. Finally, there was but one, lone occupant of the room remaining with Miss Hastings and me.
I looked down the table at young Jason Stevens, the twenty-four-year-old great-nephew of my longtime friend, Red Stevens. He glared back at me with a look of rage, defiance, and disrespect that only someone who has made a lifelong practice of selfish anger can muster.
He slammed his hand on the table and yelled at me, "I knew that mean old man wouldn't leave anything for me. He always hated me." He stood and began to stomp out of the room.
"Not so fast," I called to him. "You are, indeed, mentioned here in the will."
He slid back into his chair and stared toward me, stone-faced, not wanting to signal the hope he felt.
I returned his cold stare, determined not to speak until he did. Patience comes easily to those of us who have seen eighty birthdays. Finally, when he could stand it no longer, he said, "Okay, what did the old goat give me?"
As I sat down and reached for the document, I heard young Jason Stevens mutter, "I bet it's nothing."
I sat back in my chair and smiled at him as I said, "Young man, it is, indeed, nothing and everything—both at the same time."CHAPTER 2
A Voice from the Past
In the end, a person is only known by the impact he or she has on others.
Jason Stevens and I sat in silence as Miss Hastings left the room and quickly returned with a large cardboard box. She set the box next to me at the end of the table and took her customary place on my right.
I turned to Jason and said, "Young man, this box was given to me by your great-uncle, Red Stevens, on the day he prepared his last will and testament. The box was sealed at that time and has been kept in our vault per Mr. Stevens' instructions until today. As you can plainly see, the seal is still intact. There are very specific and detailed instructions as to how I am to administer this gift to you."
I broke open the seal, reached inside the box, and took out a videotape. I handed it to Miss Hastings, and she put the tape in the video player contained in the built-in console at the end of the conference room. She sat down next to me holding the remote control.
Jason Stevens blurted out, "What's going on here? Everyone else walks out with millions of dollars, and I get some kind of home movie."
I tried to ignore his smug attitude and replied, "I think it will all become clear to you shortly."
I nodded to Miss Hastings. She dimmed the lights and started the video. After some brief static, the image of seventy-five-year-old Red Stevens appeared on the screen. Red Stevens was a big man in every sense of that word. He had come to Texas out of the swamps of Louisiana with nothing but determination, strength, and the clothes on his back, and during the Depression and war years, had built an oil and cattle empire that rivaled any in the world. He was the kind of man who dominated every situation in which he was involved. Even now, with just his video image on the large screen at the end of the conference room, I could feel the energy level in the room climbing.
Red Stevens cleared his throat and began to speak. "Well, Jason, since you're watching this videotape, we will assume that I have kicked the bucket, bit the dust, bought the farm, and gone on to my just rewards. I know that my instructions have been followed to the letter, so you are viewing this video with my oldest and dearest friend, Theodore Hamilton, and his trusted associate, Margaret Hastings. Son, you don't know enough to realize it, but these are two of the finest people to ever walk God's green earth."
Red paused for a minute and then spoke directly to Margaret and me using a derivative of my name that only Red Stevens was allowed to use.
"Ted, I want to thank both you and Margaret for dealing with all of my in-laws, outlaws, and assorted misfit relatives earlier today. I know that none of them will win any prizes. I also want to apologize to both of you for the sorry attitude that I'm sure Jason has already displayed during these proceedings."
Red paused for another brief moment, cleared his throat, and began again. "Jason, I lived my life in a big way. I had a lot of big accomplishments, and I made a lot of big mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was when I gave everyone in our family everything that they thought they ever wanted. It took me many years to figure out that everything we ever do or know or have in this life is a gift from the good Lord. He has a special plan for each of us, and He has provided everything we need to fulfill that plan. I spent many years trying to achieve happiness or buy it for friends and family. Only as an old man did I come to learn that all happiness comes from the gifts that God has given us. Unfortunately, the money and possessions I spread around didn't help people to understand the gifts that have been provided for us. In trying to make up for all the times I wasn't there, I gave them all material things. In doing so, I robbed them of everything that makes life wonderful.
"Gratefully, I also discovered God is merciful, and I believe I've made peace within regarding my shortcomings. However, I think my family members are all permanently ruined. It's like when a horse goes bad. You simply have to take him out and shoot him. Unfortunately, as my lawyer Mr. Hamilton advised me, shooting our entire family would be frowned upon. He also rightly reminded me that God never gives up on people. Therefore, I leave my family in God's hands, and I have taken steps in my will to provide a living for all of these relatives even if they will never experience life.
"You, on the other hand, Jason, may be the last great vestige of hope in our family. Although your life to date seems to be a sorry excuse for anything I would call promising, there does seem to be some spark of something in you I am hoping we can capture and fan into a flame. For that reason, I am not making you an instant millionaire for the rest of your life."
Jason slammed his open palm onto the conference table and began to speak, but was interrupted by Red Stevens' words from the videotape. "Now, Jason, before you mouth off and embarrass both you and me in front of these fine people, let me explain the ground rules here.
"On the first of each month for the next year, you will meet with Mr. Hamilton and Miss Hastings and be given one element of what I call the ultimate gift.
"If you stay the course over the next year, and embrace each element, at that point you will be the recipient of the most significant bequest I can leave you through my will. But understand, if at any time you do not perform as indicated, or if you give Mr. Hamilton or Miss Hastings an undue amount of difficulty, I have instructed Mr. Hamilton, through my will, to stop the process and leave you with nothing."
I heard a deep sigh and exhalation of breath from the direction of Jason Stevens.
Red continued. "Now, don't forget, boy. If you turn out to be more trouble than you're worth—which is not difficult for you—Mr. Hamilton will simply cut you off without another word.
"And, finally, to you, Theodore J. Hamilton," Red chuckled and continued. "I bet you didn't think I remembered your real name, Ted. I want to thank you for undertaking this little salvage operation on my behalf with Jason. And I also want to thank you for being the best friend that any man ever had. I accumulated a lot of things in my life, but I would trade them all in an instant for the privilege I have of sitting here, right now, and being able to say that Theodore J. Hamilton was my friend."
At that point, the video ended, and we all sat in silence. Finally, Jason turned to me and, in a belligerent tone, said, "That old man was crazy."
I sighed and replied, "Well, young man, it is certain that someone is crazy, and I think this little project is going to give us all the opportunity to find out who that someone may be."
I stood and offered my hand to Jason as I moved toward the door. He ignored my outstretched hand and said, "Wait a minute. What's the deal here? Why don't you just tell me what's going on, and what I get?"
"All in good time, young man," I said to him over my shoulder as I walked out of the room.
I could hear Jason's angry voice as I retreated down the hall. "Why couldn't he just leave me money like everybody else?"
I could hear the calm voice of Miss Hastings reply, "He loved you too much to do that."
Excerpted from The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall. Copyright © 2001 Jim Stovall. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsOne | In the Beginning,
Two | A Voice from the Past,
Three | The Gift of Work,
Four | The Gift of Money,
Five | The Gift of Friends,
Six | The Gift of Learning,
Seven | The Gift of Problems,
Eight The Gift of Family,
Nine | The Gift of Laughter,
Ten | The Gift of Dreams,
Eleven | The Gift of Giving,
Twelve | The Gift of Gratitude,
Thirteen | The Gift of a Day,
Fourteen | The Gift of Love,
Fifteen | The Ultimate Gift,
About the Author,
What People are Saying About This
"I love this book. I see this book becoming one of the great and inspiring movies of all time. It touches my heart and soul deeply, profoundly, and permanently, and will yours too." —Mark Victor Hansen, cocreator of the #1 New York Times bestselling series Chicken Soup for the Soul
The Ultimate Gift was fabulous! Margie and I just loved it. This is going to make a major difference in our company." —Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Ultimate Gift is the moving story of Jason, Red Steven's nephew. Red dies and leaves a series of tasks for Jason to complete in order to receive his inheritance. It is very moving and makes an excellent gift. Our small group studied the book and grew because of it.
This story was ahmazing. Our class just read this and it was a heartbreaking, touching story. I couldn't recommend a better book than this one. Also, we watched the movie it's beautiful. Everyone has to watch it, it is similar to the book. It started out great, ended great and I cried at the end. Love IT.
It is a very good story, i like it alot! I only wish it was cheaper, to me its a little steepnfor only 85 pages
This is a book that adults of every age can read, enjoy, and learn a valuable lesson. It makes one realize that money is not the greatest gift but so many other things are of greater importance.
I recently visited my best friend from my childhood. She is currently in Arizona. I lost my husband and one of my dogs in a house fire in May of 07'. She recommended that I read this book and gave me her copy to read while I was visiting. I finished it in two days. I can't wait to start applying the 'gifts' to my own life. This is a definite read!
I really liked this book, it was a great story that will make you think and examine your own life. This should be required reading of every high school kid. About selfishness, that everyone can learn from. This is the story of Jason who had a billionaire grandfather. When the grandfather dies, Jason expects an inheritance. Instead, Jason is given an ultimatum, a series of twelve tests or gifts (depending on how you look at them). If he fails, he looses everything. It makes you think about what is really important in life. The movie was good too-
This was excellent family material but rather predictable - nothing bad, just' a bit slow. Perhaps the fact that I saw the movie on tv midway through my reading alters my review. The movie was more enjoyable for me. People who most NEED this book won't likely be the ones picking it up! Ultimately it did give the reader some thoughtprovoking ideas. I will keep my copy or share with someone else next. It was purchased for a discussion in a club (not specifically a book club, just for a different monthly activity).
This is like the best book ever, well it is one of the best.
This was a great story about how we put to much importance on things that don't matter and don't make us happy no matter how much money we have. I loved this book so much that I am giving it to everyone for Christmas. It is good to remember what is important in life.
This is one of those 'feel good' books that everyone should read. It doesn't matter what is going on in your life, you will get some sort of benefit from it. Whether you are rich or you are poor, whether you are grieving or are a new parent, whether you are happy or sad, you will be a better person for having read The Ultimate Gift. I sat down today to read this wonderful tale and I ended up reading it straight through in one sitting. It spoke to me, it spoke directly to my soul and it gave me what I needed that day.
One of the most inspirational books I have read. We often forget what is truely important in life. It is easy to be distracted by one's selfishness and obstacles we run into. This story will help you realize the beauty of life.
This is a book for all who yearn to know what is missing in their lives. It is an easy read and appropriate for every age group. Take time off from your busy schedule and bring everything back into perspective. It is a great stress reliever.
I finished this book in one sitting. Everyone should endulge themselves in this novel. It expresses the true importance in life, especially when one has so many open doors and does not realize it. You will automatically fall in love with Red Stevens and his ultimate gift he leaves Jason in his will. This book is a life changing story for readers alike.
From age 8 to 80, this is a must! A very short read, but filled with forever thoughts and inspirations. I'm going to write a list of the 'gifts' and place it on my refridgerator as thoughts for the day, or if you will, a daily prayer. I'm also going to send a copy to family and friends who need support and inspiration.
If you're needing a good boost to continue life here's one for you. After reading this book you'll begin to appreciate what you have. It doesn't take long to read and even it did it would be well worth your time.
I have used this book in my 8th grade reading classes for the past 8 years. This is the one book that all of my students have read all the way through. They can't put it down. Just as it changed Jason's life, The Ultimate Gift has changed my life and is constantly changing the lives of my students. Excellent for students of all reading levels. I have recommended it to all of my colleagues. It is currently being used in the reading program at the High School across town. They love it too.
I am 14 yrs old and my class read this book at Virginia Middle School, and I swear after they read this excellent story. They walked out of there with a different point of view and heart. It is a wonderful story. It changed my life and it will urs 2. read it!
I read the book on the plane from Florida. I wanted to read the ending, but knew I would miss a lot. Very inspiring! I will be using the book in my classroom for years to come. I truly believe Jason's story can benefit many other young adults. Thanks!!!
What I liked about this moving book by Jim Stovall was the encompassing of all the tenets of character a person needs to balance life with purpose and passion. As it has been stated and said many times over, this is a great study for anyone whether they are starting out on their life journey, or lost in the midst of it. Red Stevens, although he speaks posthumously throughout the text, represents a person to some and the embodiment of the Father, God, to others, having given his family every single thing they needed to live life at ease, recognizing the end of his own time with them that he hasn’t given them enough of these important characteristics. How often in life do we get to a roadblock because we don’t know how to move forward? That’s where we are missing one of these integral characteristics. Red’s grandson, Jason, represents each and every one of us. I think every reader can find self in him.
Not really what I was expecting in a really wonderful way. How many of us would be just like the main character who just wants what his uncle has left for him in his will right now with no strings attached? The growth that the main character goes through to gain the Ultimate Gift really makes us think... What would I have done if I had to go through this challenge? I loved this book. What a wonderful book to discuss in a group. Enjoy!!
I found this book uplifting and making you ask yourself what you would do in the same situation. It makes you think about what really matters in life and is getting that promotion, new house, new car, etc so important. To me it shows what true happiness is. I highly recommend it to everyone and wish it were required reading in the schools.
This is one of the best books I've ever read, perhaps even the best. The story is short but leaves an impact upon the reader. Not only is it an interesting and well writen story, but it has a very inspiring message for everyone. I highly recommend it for your reading enjoyment.
The storyline is not new but it was interesting reading what choices the character made as the book progressed. It does not captivate you but it is a good read.
A short, quick read that was pleasantly surprising. It's thought provoking and can be life changing if you allow it.
Gives people something to think about.