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The Best Gift of All

Black Friday! Cyber Monday! Cyber Week! Cyber Month! It’s official. The holiday shopping season is in full swing.

There’s a good chance that you have at least one elderly loved one on your shopping list. What to buy, what to buy. But do you really need to buy? Maybe what you really need to do instead is to give. There is a difference.

“Buying” is flipping through a gift catalog and ordering a nut basket (hard for some elderly to eat and digest!) or a flower arrangement (extra work for some elderly to maintain and ultimately dispose of). “Giving” is sacrificing your time and money to hop on a plane or jump in the car to spend time with your elderly loved one during the holiday season.

“Buying” is going online to find some useless (albeit cute or clever) dust collector to add to the other dust collectors your elderly loved one already has that, unfortunately, don’t get dusted all that often because he or she hasn’t the strength to do it. “Giving” is letting go of the fun that comes with online shopping and just getting the less exciting, but more appreciated, gift of a free cleaning session.

“Buying” is roaming the mall to ultimately end up with a pair of fuzzy holiday slippers (possible trip hazard), a bathrobe or nightgown (to join the other 10 already hanging in the closet), or impractical jewelry that will never be worn (especially if your elderly loved one is homebound). “Giving” is making something homemade (food, blanket, photo collage, whatever) that will be treasured because it came from the heart.

“Buying” is taking your elderly loved one out for an elaborate holiday brunch or dinner – well-meaning but often a chaotic affair that creates mega stress for an elderly loved one not able to handle large crowds and unfamiliar settings. “Giving” is bringing or cooking a nice meal for your elderly loved one to enjoy in an environment that is relaxing and calm, whether it is your home or someone else’s.

The difference is subtle, but it’s real. Whenever I would ask my dad what he wanted for Christmas, he would always answer, “Nothing. I already have everything I need.” I always thought it was a cop-out – a useless answer that offered me no guidance as I headed out to the mall to “buy” that perfect gift. Eventually, I came to see that the best gift to give is not the one I wanted to buy, but the one that he appreciated most. Me!

You can’t find “you” in a catalog, or on Amazon, or in the mall. But chances are, that’s what your elderly loved one wants most this holiday season. The best gift for him or her – and even maybe for you – is to figure out how to make that happen.

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