There’s nothing quite as thrilling as receiving a package in the mail. Even if you already know what’s inside, there’s still that sense of exhilaration as you race to cut open the packaging and get inside the wrapping as quickly as possible.
Last week a friend of mine was telling me about all the packages she’d received for her recent birthday, from friends all around the country. Each gift was a surprise, and each brought her immense joy. She was stunned that people took the time out of their lives to remember her in this most thoughtful manner. This friend described to me the thrill she’d felt from the moment of finding each package at her doorstep through tearing into the package at hand.
All of this got me to thinking: What a simple tool we have within reach to bring happiness to someone we love. Why not start with our parents? For those adult children who even still may not have the easiest time communicating in words with their aging parents, a “caring package” can do the talking.
I realize that the thought of gift-giving seizes many of us with fear; but this is not so much a box of gifts as it is an unexpected package, full of thoughtfulness. Think about your mom or your dad … the best times you’ve shared together and the stories they’ve told. Think about their favorite places, trips, foods, memories … Think about your own family, the hobbies your kids enjoy, and the trips you’ve taken together. These are all clues from which you can gather. The treasures you put together for your parent can be as inexpensive as hand-drawn pictures from your children to their grandmother, or can cost as much as you’d like to spend—a plane ticket, perhaps. The point is to the ignite joy in your parents, a joy they can revisit each time they look at any of the mementos reminding them of the love and care that went into creating their packages.
Here are just a few ideas to spark your own creativity:
- Ask your child(ren) to draw a picture of themselves, your family, the family pet, etc.
- Take a quick family photo with your Smartphone, then print it yourself, or have it printed at your local copy store. You can even upload a batch of photos to an online photo store and have an entire photo album printed, so that Mom and Dad can keep abreast of the latest goings on at your house
- Does Dad have a dog? Enclose a few homemade dog biscuits, or a hand-painted “man’s best friend” picture frame
- Show Mom you remember the little things by including her favorite candies (only if she is not on a special diet, please)
- Enclose a pre-paid card for the local movie theater, so that you can treat the folks to a movie, “on you”
- Order and include a postcard from a place you all visited as a family when you were young
- Create a coupon book for Mom, with coupons for a girls’ day out, mani-pedi, or just a visit twice a month
- Write a hand-written thank you note for all your parent(s) have done for you
What if your mom or dad happen to live in the same town as you, or, heaven forbid, what if your parent is not always as lucid as he or she once was? In my opinion, parents who live close by still deserve (and love!) surprises, and as for the second scenario, this is all the more reason to send a caring basket, box or even a bushel . I’m pretty sure that the acts involved will be a helpful exercise for you, the adult child, and you never know what spark may be lit within the heart of your parent upon receipt of this wonderful gift.
I’m always here to bounce around ideas for better ways of navigating the treacherous waters of life within the sandwich generation.
All the best,
Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.