5 Simple Ways to Give the Gift Everyone Wants


Every Christmas my family would try to come up with the perfect gift for our beloved mother/grandmother/great-grandmother. By the time she was in her 80s, she had collected it all: candles, framed pictures, cozy slippers and blankets, even high-tech gadgets like a Kindle, massage chair, and Bose headphones—gifts we thought would make her life a little easier.

“I have enough stuff!” she tried to tell us. “I don’t need anything!”

But we couldn’t show up at Gram’s house on Christmas empty handed. So, we switched to favorite food and drinks. A nice bottle of red for her nightly glass of wine or Anisette for special occasions. Gourmet cheeses and soups, jalapeño jams and hot sauces, specialty produce—something she could delight in that she wouldn’t buy for herself. She enjoyed it all, but still insisted we not give her anything.

Then, one year in her late 80s, my grandmother began asking the same question every five minutes. Soon, lovely conversations were repeated on a loop, and we were left hoping even just a wisp of what we talked about would somehow stay with her.

It was only then I realized the best gift to give my grandmother—not just for Christmas, but any chance I could get—was my time. Really, it was all she ever wanted from any of us: a phone call or a pop-in visit, to sit and chat with her on her patio or maybe go out to grab a bite to eat together.

I was sick that I hadn’t grasped this concept sooner, crushed to realize she would never remember our visits because her short-term memory was gone.

But I gave her the gift of my time anyway. She wouldn’t remember it—but I would.

Time. It is truly the gift that everyone wants. Parents of infants want it. Little kids want it. Teenagers do too. Parents of graduating seniors really want it, and empty nesters will do anything to get their hands on it. For your grandparents, it’s all they’ve ever wanted.

If you want to improve not just your corner of the world but someone else’s too, give the gift of your time this holiday season every chance you get. Start with these five simple tips:

1. Make a phone call.

There is no excuse for not calling someone these days! We all walk around with phones in our pockets. Don’t wait until you’re less busy or find the perfect time. There is no such thing. Schedule it. Make it a priority. Make a list of people who deserve a phone call from you and then imagine how devastated you’d be if you never got to talk to them again. After all, tomorrow is not promised, which is why we all need to make the time to call those we care most about today.

2. Schedule a visit.

It’s the same idea as a phone call, but requires a little more planning. Stop saying, “We should get together soon!” and actually choose a date, a time, a place. Start with those who may have more time behind them than ahead of them. And remember, it doesn’t have to be fancy! My grandmother delighted in just sitting in the sun on her patio, making small talk while we both enjoyed the beauty of the day and the love we shared. It was a 3-hour drive for me to get to her—sometimes just for a 1-hour visit—but those get-togethers are memories I cherish, especially now that she is gone.

3. Give someone your undivided attention.

Our phones do not deserve all the attention we give them; the people right in front of us do. People blossom under attention—especially children. Read a book with a little one. Spend one-on-one time with a teenager. Make it a date with a special someone in your life. Ask a person with half a dozen decades or more of life experience to share his or her story with you. People crave being seen and heard and made to feel relevant. Giving someone your attention is more valuable than anything you could wrap in a box and place under a tree.

4. Give someone some much-needed downtime.

Exhausted parents are desperate for it, overextended teenagers crave it, and overworked teachers deserve it. All of our brains need it. So, give the gift of your time by giving someone else a break! You might offer to babysit or let someone sleep in or stay up late. Maybe you volunteer to make someone’s load lighter or take something off their plate so they have time to pursue a passion. Time with no strings attached—unstructured time—feels like the greatest gift of all. And while you’re at it, give the gift of me-time to yourself!

5. Focus your time on activities that feel like play.

Make a gift of getting together (in real life—not virtually!) and do something fun. Play tennis, go bowling, or hit the mini golf course with your kids. Go indoor rock climbing or learn how to sail with your significant other. Take a cooking or pottery class with your best friend. For those less active, you might even play a board game or card game or make a craft together. If you really want to dive in, take a trip together! Honestly, doing anything that feels like fun, makes you laugh, and helps you remember the joys of play is perfect.

Remember, the gift of your time costs you nothing—but to someone special in your life, it might mean everything.


Kelli Wheeler is an author, family columnist, writing instructor and recent Empty Nester. For more information visit momservations.com.

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