Christmas has become so commercialized that it has lost a lot of charm. Over the past few years, I have looked for charm over expensive gifts.

And, it probably goes without saying, I have always looked for romance.

Last Christmas, I found both.

A week before Christmas, I got an unexpected call from Mike, the husband of my friend Debbie.

“I was just riding along, trying to think what I could do for my sweetheart,” he said.

Isn’t that lovely? A man who calls his wife of 15 years his sweetheart?

Let’s rewind here for some background before you hear what happened next.

Mike and Debbie live on a beautiful 350-acre farm complete with a large, rambling river. Debbie loves and collects dogs. Some dogs find her. Honest. If a dog needs a good home, he shows up at Debbie’s. Some, we believe, are intentionally dropped off.

Last year, a week before Christmas, Debbie and I were having lunch when she worriedly told me that two new mismatched puppies from the same litter (turns out they had the same mama but different dads) had arrived at her mailbox. She took them to see Dr. Smiley, our vet, who hospitalized them because of malnutrition and various ailments.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with them,” she fretted.

“Keep ‘em.”

She shook her head. “I can’t. I already have 10 dogs.”

“But you have a 350-acre farm which means each dog now has 35 acres apiece on which to roam,” I pointed out. “You’ve got plenty of room for more.”

She shook her head again. “Mike won’t like it.”

Now, Mike is one of the nicest guys I know. I couldn’t imagine him turning away orphaned puppies. “Did he say that?”

Another shake of the head. “No. I can just tell.”

Two days later, Miss Busybody (that would be me) saw Mike. “You need to let Debbie keep those puppies.”

He shook his head (this story has a lot of head shaking in it). “We’ve got enough dogs.” He paused then said, “I don’t care if she keeps them. She knows that.”

I shook my head. “No, she doesn’t.” I repeated our lunch conversation.

The next day, he called to say he had decided on the perfect Christmas gift for his sweetheart. “I want Dr. Smiley to call her and tell her that he has found the perfect home for the puppies. When she asks “Where?” he can say, “Yours. They’re going home with you. Merry Christmas from Mike.”

I thought it was the sweetest gesture possible. So when Mike asked me to call Dr. Smiley to make the arrangements, Miss Busybody jumped right in. Anytime that a man is being thoughtfully romantic, it must be encouraged. We women owe that to each other.

When my sister heard the story, she sighed wistfully. “How sweet.” Turning to my brother-in-law, she narrowed her eyes. “Why can’t you do something romantic like that?”

He shrugged. “I can go out and pick up a couple of old strays if that’s what you want. Be a cheap gift.”

Men. Some of ‘em you’ve gotta love, some of ‘em you’ve gotta keep anyway. But to the men who will give their sweethearts gifts that require more thought than money, know this: You’re the best kind of Christmas angel.

May an abundance of mistletoe fall on your precious head.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of What Southern Woman Know (That Every Woman Should) and The Town That Came A-Courtin’

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