For the longest time, I avoided gift guides like the plague. They generally reek of commercialism and are often full of frivolous stocking stuffers that no one wants or super-expensive items that no one can afford. Plus, they tend to be categorized by gender, so you see the same shaving kit and cocktail sets over and over again for guys. But I realized a lot of the things I think are cool would be great gifts for anyone. So I’ve put together my own list of items I’m thinking of getting for friends and family or that I’d be happy to receive this year. Hope you enjoy!

Moment Lens

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I can’t remember the first time I heard the term “community service,” but it wasn’t until the 10th grade that I finally understood what the word meant. I had just moved to the United States from Jamaica and once enrolled in high school, I got involved with the National Honor Society and an after-school club called Building with Books.

Both organizations required students to volunteer and over the next three years, I logged hundreds of volunteer hours after school and on weekends, serving meals in soup kitchens, planting community gardens, writing letters to kids in Uganda and eventually, flying to Nicaragua with a group of other students from the tri-state area to build a school.

The two weeks I spent lugging concrete blocks across a worksite or mixing cement was perhaps one of the most formative periods in my life.

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Yesterday, for Thanksgiving, many of my friends posted notes of gratitude on social media. If you were with your family, you might have shared what you were all thankful for this year.

That was the first thing I did when I woke up, and it’s something I’ve been doing pretty much everyday for almost three years now as part of my bucket list goals.

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Sometimes I insist that I’m not a people person because to be honest, other people can be pretty annoying. But deep down, I’ve always been fascinated by other people’s lives.

It’s one of the reasons I love traveling and why I’m usually drawn to stories from other cultures. While it’s always interesting to discover the ways in which we can be different – like the food we eat or the way we view marriage, for example – the real pleasure is discovering similarities, the things that make us all human no matter where we come from.

This week’s inspiration is all about people and the ways in which they can be beautiful, or vulnerable, or alike or sometimes, completely different from everything we know.

Photo: Jack Garofalo/Paris Match via Getty Images

I love the the colors, and not to mention the sick afros, in this photo of two Harlem women taken in 1970. It was part of a photo series by Jack Garofalo for Paris Match magazine on the neighborhood after residents searching for a better quality of life moved out in droves – you can see the full set in this retrospective on Mashable.

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