Sunday, December 21, 2003

Loved one's time a precious gift

Alive and well

Cleaning out closets or file drawers is always a dangerous undertaking for me. Look in my brain for "Organize" and I guess you'll find it filed under "Not Here," because I simply never grasped the concept. Every drawer, box, shelf and folder is laden with surprises.

So it was yesterday when I stumbled on a bit of nostalgia that helped me figure out what I want for Christmas.

Stuffed in between some tightly wedged file folders was a small book of "coupons" - conjured, cut, and colored by my now grown-up son some 13 or 14 years ago. They were still crisp and new, tied up with a piece of yarn. Each page was redeemable for some service a 10-year-old might perform - one for washing dishes, one for sweeping the floor, one for dusting furniture, one for a back rub - and a last page afterthought thrown in reading, "This one is for another book of coupons."

Each of my children presented me with some variation on this theme over the years, and each succeeded in melting my heart, wrapping me in the delicious certainty that here was a gift handcrafted for me alone.

You don't have to be a child to give a gift of time and attentiveness, and you don't have to be a mom to appreciate it. If you still haven't found the right gift for your aunt with arthritis, your nephew with autism, or your neighbor with multiple sclerosis, a promise of your time or talent can still be wrapped and delivered.

For many people with disabilities, transportation is a major concern. Extending yourself, your time, and transportation to help someone get last-minute shopping can be a tremendous gift. For others, someone with the patience to play a game at a slower pace or the dexterity to assist with hanging ornaments on a tree can be far more rewarding than any expensive toy or treat.

A coupon now to be redeemed later for a movie date, a trip to the mall, or dinner at a new restaurant provides pleasure both now and later. A promise to teach or share a skill is even better - can you teach someone the basics of sign language, crochet, using the Internet, or playing guitar?

The problem, of course, with my own rediscovered treasure is that I held on to my coupons - never spent them because, I suppose, I wanted to find the booklet a decade later.

To ensure that your friend or loved one actually experiences your gift of time, make it a point to take some time delivering the message. Reading each coupon carefully, commenting on its possibilities, praising that little boy for his creativity - all were part of receiving this cherished gift in the first place. Come to think of it, maybe the best coupon in the lot is that one redeemable for a whole new book: If I could spend that one now, I'd make sure that each new page guaranteed just plain time, an hour or minute spent in the company of one who is loved.


Contact Deborah Kendrick by phone: 673-4474; fax: 321-6430; e-mail:

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