Friday, December 05, 2008

Give the Gift of Time Together for the Holidays

When you're on your death bed looking back on your life, what will you remember most, the stuff you received as gifts, or the time you spent with the people you care about?

On Wednesday I posted 10 Lists of Holiday Gifts That Give Back. Although many of the ideas on the lists help people in need, or have a light impact on the planet, most of the ideas are objects to purchase. I want to share with you a story about a friend of mine's mom who for the last few years has only given gifts of time for birthdays and holidays.

Last Christmas at breakfast, rather than under the tree, she presented her two daughters, son in-law and three grandchildren with a set of different colored nesting boxes, the kind that, when empty, fit inside each other. Each had a sand dollar glued on the top for decoration.

The family opened the boxes in order, by size. The smallest box was for the youngest grandchild. When she opened the tiny little box, glued inside the lid was a piece of paper that unfolded, like a fortune cookie fortune. It said, "A trip to the zoo!" Inside the box was a brochure for the Oakland Zoo.

The next largest box was opened by the 2nd oldest grandchild. Glued inside was the same kind of folded paper that said, "An overnight with tennis and swimming!" The next box was opened by the eldest grandchild who received, "An overnight with Stanford baseball!"

The eldest daughter's box contained ""Tickets to a show!" The son in-law received "Stanford football tickets!" and his wife, the youngest daughter and my friend, got, "A lunch and shopping date (with paid babysitter included)!"

My friend said that not only did everyone love their gifts of time to spend with grandma/mom/mom in-law, but that the gifts have changed how the children give their grandma gifts:
"One thing that has come out of it, that is really special, is that my kids really want to give her gifts of time now, too. They do things like, "A hike in the woods!" or "A picnic at the pool!" Of course, I have to be involved in it, but they get to pick what they want to do, and then they gift it to her. They draw a picture and write what they want to do with her."
It's important to give back to your local and global community, but it is also important to "give back" to your friends and family. Give them the gift of time together.

Related blog posts:
Give the Gift of Time Together This Holiday Season on Treehugging Family.
Christmas and Other Holidays: Gifts of Time on Jeri's Organizing & Decluttering News
Green Giving: Experiential and the Gift of Time on Eco - Action

Flickr photo credit: Sand Dollar uploaded by Bart Everson.
Cross-posted from


  1. Ironically, Britt, I'm shutting down the blog in 48 hrs. to head south of the border to be with my brother who double-dog dared me to leave my wires behind and join him for a long wkend in a far away surf town (to discuss the health of my parents, hangout and work on and Shaping I decided on Thanksgiving, impromptu, snagged the last seat on an Orbitz flight, and he's STILL flabbergasted.

    He keeps pinging me every couple days from a remote internet shack in the eco plaza saying, 'you're REALLY serious? you ARE coming? Can we REALLY have time just the two of us?'---"Yes we CAN!' ;-)

    Yep, that's what I'm 'giving' this year, a blog break and full presence sans reachability.

  2. That sounds wonderful, Amy. Have a fantastic, relaxing, non-techie time with your brother.

  3. Anonymous9:55 PM

    I've been trying to figure out what to do about gifts this Christmas.

    We've had to cut back on expenses, and the kids have been warned to lower their expectations, but attempts to get them to pass on gifts and give to those in need met with resistance. Fortunately, they're easy to please with relatively little.

    The bigger problem was how to make Christmas morning, and the traditional opening of the gifts, a special occasion with so little.

    I'm going to borrow your idea, it's the perfect solution!

  4. Hi Sandra,

    It's not really *my* idea. I just borrowed it from my friend's mom (:

  5. Anonymous4:01 AM

    This is really a good idea.
    no matter, whose idea it is.


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