Gifts from the Heart – What to Give to Someone on the Front Lines
In a previous post, I listed some suggestions on mourning with those that mourn. One of the recommendations was to give a gift. If gift-giving isn’t your forte but you’d like to try it out, here are a few ideas to help you get started:
1. Starbuck’s Hot Chocolate – Obviously, this particular gift is a little too specific to my own taste. Not everyone would appreciate hot chocolate, but the point is to give them anything you know they like however small it may seem. They will then know you were thinking about them and that you recognize that they need comforting. This is affirming when someone feels like they should have it together by now and that their grief should be over.
2. Rice Krispy Treats – I mentioned in the same post that it meant a lot to me when a friend dropped by unexpectedly with a pan of rice krispy treats. She was already making a batch for her family and simply doubled it. The lesson here is to give your friend anything that’s easy for you. Even if it turns out to be something they don’t eat or never read or give to goodwill a year later, they will feel loved and cared for. (For the record, we did eat those rice krispy treats. J)
3. Belated Flowers – Sometime ago, a woman in my ward lost her 3-month-old baby. It was devastating news; however, the rest of the world, ward included, moved on within a short time. It sounds crass to say so, but when it isn’t your grief it can be easy to forget the intense feelings of loss. The relief society president in this ward reminded us when the month mark of this woman’s loss was upon us that even though all seemed right in our world, this woman’s world would never be the same again. She encouraged us to remember her loss in some way if we felt so inclined.
I felt inclined.
I gave her flowers with a note letting her know that I had not forgotten her loss. She may not have liked the flowers, but I know firsthand that it is extremely comforting to know that someone else realizes that you are still in pain, that they remember your loss or hardship. It was always a little disheartening when someone I thought should know more about Claire’s treatment, had no idea that she was still undergoing chemotherapy, that they somehow thought our life was back to normal when ‘normal’ was more than a year away.
4. Dinners – We received many thoughtful, special dinners from ward members and neighbors. We felt loved from the gesture, but it was even was more than that. On difficult days, it was nice that we didn’t have to think of what to eat for dinner. This incorporates so much really. It cuts down on time spent grocery shopping, cooking and preparing food, and even meal clean up. My specific suggestion here is to provide all the food in containers that you don’t expect to receive back. Having to return dishes can feel ten times more stressful when you are dealing with other life difficulties.
5. A Listening Ear – One friend called me every few days during the first six, difficult months of Claire’s treatment. I don’t think I ever reciprocated. In fact, it took me several months to realize that she was calling me to check in. I didn’t recognize it as a friend reaching out in concern and love, but I always had something heavy on my chest that she listened to without comment or judgment.
6. Your Physical Presence - It sounds so simple, but it can be difficult to be with someone who mourns. We who are suffering know that. We appreciate it that much more when you try. It can be challenging to be with your friend because you don’t fully understand their pain. Unless we have been through something similar, how can we possibly understand our friend’s pain? Mourners don’t always need understanding. Having a friend with us can be enough. It can also be draining, so use your judgment.
And because our particular challenge revolved around a very young child, I’ve added a handful of things that you could give to a child who is chronically ill or struggling for whatever reason:
1. Window Crayons – I am going to get specific about the ‘crayon’ part of this. Don’t get the markers or paints. The crayons are awesome and work wonders when you are in the hospital for a week with a window right next to your bed. They can be easily removed with a wipe, which it turns out the child will love to do on her own.
2. Nail Polish – Obviously this is for a girl. It will make her feel pretty and it’s something to do.
3. Crayons or Markers with Coloring Book or Sketch Pad – Any brand or amount will do. For some reason kids think new crayons and markers are amazing even if they already have a box-full.
4. Stickers – Do they have a favorite character, shape, or color? Go for it!
5. Bead or art kit – If the child is in the hospital, there are some seriously LONG hours to pass, and if the child is at home, they probably don’t have a lot of energy, so creative activities that don’t take a lot of energy are a wonderful reprieve from the monotonous hours.
6. Age-appropriate books – Again, LONG hours to pass.
Claire pretty much received all of the above plus other thoughtful gifts. The above turned out to be the most helpful for our specific situation, but children love to open anything that is wrapped so use your imagination.
What is something you've received that lifted your spirits when you were down?