I mentioned last month that I wanted to help my 2 year old embrace the thankfulness and giving part of this holiday season by finding ways to volunteer with him, so we set out last night to give some symbols of life and love to those who may not have many visitors this Christmas.
I grew up in a huge family. My grandmother gave birth to 11 children. Everyone got married and had babies, and their babies had babies, and now we need a VFW hall just to have a family Christmas party. My cousins were my first playmates and continue to be some of my most trusted friends and confidants, and while my dad’s side of the family is much smaller, we treasure time with them just as much, even if it isn’t as often since they live five hours away. It doesn’t matter how long it has been since we have seen each other, getting together with family always feels like falling right back into place after being on pause. That’s the kind of family Craig and I both grew up in; it’s the kind of family we want Lucas to have, too. We treasure the closeness, safety, and camaraderie that family brings, so we wanted to give back to those who may be lacking that sense of family, especially at this time of year when family seems to be the focal point of everything we do.
The past few years have brought a lot of loss in our families. When I was pregnant with Lucas, my husband lost three of his four grandparents. After this fall, we are now both left with only one grandfather each to cherish. We are lucky that both of our surviving grandparents are strong and healthy enough to continue to live at home and take care of themselves, but we know that isn’t the case for a lot of seniors who don’t have family to help them. For many reasons, a lot of seniors end up living in retirement communities or nursing homes. Funds to decorate and keep places like these cheery aren’t always readily available, so when my parents both said to find a home for the poinsettias they’d ordered from Lucas’ school fundraiser, I knew exactly where we would take them.
I loaded up a not so cheerful Lucas after his nap and four large poinsettia plants yesterday evening and headed to a nursing home just down the street from us. I had made a call during nap time to make sure they were okay with us donating the flowers to them, and they were overjoyed! When we got there, Lucas cheered right up and was so friendly with every resident who walked by. He loves to shake people’s hands now (thanks to the greeters at our church) and offered his hand to each senior we passed. The smiles on their faces made him giggle and laugh, and I nearly cried from the joy and kindness you could see in their faces.
We donated 4 large poinsettia plants (thanks mom and dad!) and made the activity director’s day. She gave us a calendar of this month’s activities so we can come back and color with residents, paint, sing, or even play games.
I never would have thought to find free activities for my toddler at a nursing home! Lucas has already asked when we are going back to the “nursing home to see my friends!”
How will you give back to the people and things you treasure this month?
Next week, I’ll share our experience with the United Way’s Christmas Angel program. It is specific to Indianapolis, but there are lots of similar programs available all over the United States. Check your local United Way, Salvation Army, or even a church (even if you don’t attend) for opportunities to sponsor a child this Christmas. Most deadlines to purchase gifts are about a week before Christmas Day.