When I was younger, I noticed how older relatives would apologize for the size or significance of their gifts. Given that prompting, I agreed: Their presents were usually small, barely appropriate to my childhood dreams. Nothing big nor exciting came from their generosity.
In my hedonistic or materialistic mindset, a gift was good only when it was big, surprising, unique, fashionable and expensive. A big toy was better than a little one; a faddish souvenir more valuable than something so-five-minutes-ago and an experience always superior to an object. The meaning of the gifts I received was connected to their ability to add pizazz to my life—to my reputation among my peers.
How childish I was then—and how childish any of us could be—to miss something significant about the gift-giving of older adults. Something that probably should be noticed and celebrated: All the really important gifts in life are rooted in the undeserved kindness we receive from others. A corollary: Stripped of the luster of Big Presents, the small gifts of old people in our lives are pure kindness, love distilled down to its most powerful form.
Because gifts are also more than tangible items—think about kind words, quality time, appreciative wondering, wise advice—it stands to reason that elderly folks may have more to give than is apparent. Absent the glitter of wrapping paper and price tags, every (small) moment with an older person can add grace to our lives. Free from trying to prove love with the size of a gift’s price tag, an older person can concentrate on the tender emotions that accompany any item, any experience and any encounter with a gift-recipient. The small kindnesses of old people may be the best gifts any of us will ever receive!
No apologies needed….
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