Eight Things to Give This Year – That Cost Nothing
First Night: A Thank You Note – I don’t mean the kind you dash off, a glorified form letter: Dear _______, Thank you for the _______. I love it and use it all the time. Thanks again, your ever-loving ___________. I mean the kind of letter that explains why you value and are grateful for a person who has been good to you. Pick your mom, your high school guidance counselor, the mentor from your last job. Write someone today, and they will get the Hanukah present of a lifetime. For more on the power of thank you notes, especially those that are hand-delivered, see my article on The Gratitude Visit.
Second Night: A Hug – Not the “bro-hug” of arms-length taps, or the “diva hug” that shows more concern for a wrinkled blouse than a wrinkled brow, but a real hug, a loving hug, a bear hug. A hug that lasts 20 seconds will release Oxytocin. For loved ones, that’s a good amount. For folks who are just good friends, perhaps a shorter tenure, but make it longer than usual. Give your target a bit of warning, “I want to give you a hug!” And then infuse that embrace with all possible love, support, strength, caring, healing, or whatever good energy you choose.
Third Night: A Seat at Your Table – Think of someone who might be alone for some or all of the holidays. A recent widow? A friend with family across the country? Maybe, theoretically, it could cost a few extra pennies to make an extra serving or two of food, but probably, realistically, not. Are you that precise in your measurements? Do you ever end up with leftovers that go uneaten? The average American family throws away between $1,500 to $2,200 worth of food each year. Open your door, open your heart. It costs nothing, and gains you friendship, interesting conversation, variety, and a mitzvah!
Fourth Night: Encouragement – What does a kind word cost? And what is it worth? Think back to a time when someone gave you vital encouragement. The right words at the right time can deliver hope, a new career path, the will to persevere. It has been done for you, and you have the power to do it for someone else. Maybe the results of your encouragement will be dramatic this time, and maybe they won’t. One thing is for sure: no one will object. Close your eyes, and let a face or name pop into your head. Then, don’t question it. Find or call that person and offer encouragement. Make like Nike – and just do it.
Fifth Night: A Shoulder – During happy times and holidays, we may shy away from “downers,” folks in trouble, and complainers. During sad or difficult times, we have our own problems, of course. When is the right time (hint: now) to get past ourselves? Does someone you know need a shoulder to cry – or lean – on? Seek them out. “I was thinking of you. I know you are going through a lot, and I was wondering if you want to talk about it.” How long does it take to utter those words? And let’s say you give another half-hour (likely, it won’t even be that long) to listening. You can lift someone’s spirit. You can be someone’s Rock. No charge.
Sixth Night: A Ride – You’re going out anyway. It’s not much trouble to drive. But to someone who can’t drive at night - or at all – or who doesn’t own a car or whose car is in the shop, the ride you offer means a lot. It shows caring, prevents isolation, and, in some cases, saves many hours of commuting time. Don’t wait for someone you know to stick out a thumb. Lend a hand instead.
Seventh Night: A Visit – Is someone you know recently bereaved? Just out of the hospital? Still in the hospital? Recently transferred to rehab? Home-bound? If you or a close friend or relative has ever been in such a situation, then you know how much a short visit can mean. Take yourself over. You don’t have to know what to say. Show up with a jelly donut or a latke, inquire after their health, tell a joke or two, and don’t overstay your welcome. It’s that simple.
Eighth Night: A Singing “Telegram” – If you know someone is too busy at work to pick up the phone, call anyway and leaving a “singing telegram” message. Impersonate Stevie Wonder and tell them “I just called to say I love you.” Sing “Dreidl, Dreidl" and substitute their favorite foods instead of clay, making silly rhymes: e.g., “ I have a little dreidl. It’s made from mac and cheese. Before it’s dry and ready, do anything but sneeze!” Write a personalized parody of a song they love. If you are married, call your spouse and hum your wedding song. It’s all included in your phone plan, and the serenade is priceless.