According to astute observers of gift-giving trends, those who classify as “Millennials”—I count myself as a Senior Millennial—now prefer gifts that include an “experience.” In this mindset, gift-givers and -receivers are shying away from the accumulation of things that they don’t need. Instead, they value opportunities to engage in unique events or encounters that fit their interests or bucket-lists.
So, a Not-So-Young Person might welcome a gift certificate to visit a farm, a set of tickets to a rodeo, an invitation to a pre-opening night museum exhibit or an evening dinner with a local author. Each experience promises to be rare or fascinating, enriching the knowledge base of the receiver and satisfying the giver’s need to offer a gift that doesn’t crowd the planet with more stuff.
This phenomenon seems well-suited to older adults.
As one on the receiving end of loving gifts, I sometimes have to dig deep into my psyche to answer questions like, “And what could Little Abercromie give to Grandpa Bob this Christmas?” (Aside from the always-safe “flannel shirt and matching bowtie” response!) Because I am perfectly satisfied with my older adult lifestyle, I am usually at a loss about how to answer the question. I have enough.
As gift-givers, my wife and I are also facing the other side of this possible dilemma: What to give now-teenaged grandkids? Too old for Legos, too young for sports cars, and too wise for more technological gizmos, my beloved grandkids can be hard to shop for. Perhaps the same for their parents….
We’ve been wondering how to gift them with experiences instead of things. The list of those possible experiences could include some that are truly exceptional. Another subset of experiences seems possible: Our presence might be part of any gift! Events or happenings that would also include our focused time and attention. Situations in which both we and our loved ones would share conversation with and appreciation of each other. Memorable moments that would add enjoyment to our shared family history. Something on top of our normal interactions as parents or grandparents.
Here’s one example that might this kind of gift-giving: Recording and/or filming a short, personal conversation with one of our grandkids. Using National Public Radio’s *“Story Corps” free mobile app, this gift could include the recording time and a shared meal afterwards. (We could also use YouTube’s video-posting capabilities.) The exchange might have some focus—e.g., our mutual memories of this grandchild’s early years—but would be a true conversation nonetheless. (Archived at StoryCorps or the Library of Congress, the gift could last for generations!)
I am intrigued with the idea that experiences that included our older adult presence might be a memorable gift for those we love. This thought also connects to the wonder that, as a profound blessing for each of us, God would offer his only Son as gift! A present-presence unrivalled by Legos, sports cars or technological gizmos.
Not even by flannel shirts and matching bowties!
*Story Corps is an enduring special feature of National Public Radio, involving poignant conversations between individuals, revealing the amazing intricacies of shared history. Visit https://storycorps.org/participate/storycorps-app/ to learn more about the downloadable app and the process of recording and posting a conversation.
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