Have you ever wished there was a fairy godmother? You know, the kind who would come cook dinner, clean your house, rake your leaves, etc.? I’m sure everyone has had times when life moves at a breakneck pace while the dishes, laundry, and dusting go undone. For families touched by disability, those times often become a way of life.
Caring for young children, an aging parent, or a friend going through a rough time certainly has challenges. When those children, parents, or friends have a disabling condition, the demands of caregiving are multiplied significantly. More than most people understand.
Thankfully Jesus understands, and he’s no fairy tale! As the ultimate caregiver, he is the perfect example of bearing one another’s burdens. Scripture is filled with teaching on this. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 we read, “Two are better than one . . . if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” (NIV)
Most people know someone—or know of someone—living with a disability, chronic illness, or disease. I encourage you to consider how you may come alongside that person and his or her family and be the hands and feet of Jesus to them. How might you help shoulder the burdens of the caregiver and the people they care for?
In this Christmas season, one way to help would be to give them a special gift. Consider a lasting gift of yourself that will deepen your connection with them and build your relationship. Think about a gift that might keep giving throughout the year.
If you are a dad with young sons, think of a person in your church (or ask your church leadership) who could use a few hours of help with yardwork. If you are a mom with daughters, invite a mother or a sibling of a child with a disability to help you bake Christmas cookies. And don’t overlook the person who has a disability. Consider how he or she can also participate in a special activity.
If you are a single person or an empty-nester, offer to give a night out to parents of a child with special needs or a spouse whose husband or wife is homebound. Or spend an evening in with a family by taking dinner and playing a game, putting together a puzzle, or watching a movie. And don’t stop with the people in your church. This is an excellent community outreach opportunity!
Here are a few things to consider:
- Would a tangible gift or a gift of your time or service be more helpful? Or both?
- Are your finances limited? A gift of service may be valued more than a purchased gift.
- For a gift of time, provide a timeframe, such as four hours of yardwork. Clear expectations help prevent misunderstandings.
- Will the gift need to be maintained? If so, does the recipient have the financial means to do so?
- Don’t just think about gifts at Christmas. You might offer something at another time of year and spread out the encouragement.
Want some suggestions? Try one of these ideas or be creative in coming up with your own!
Gifts of Presence and Friendship
- Decorate Christmas cookies together
- Drive around to look at Christmas lights together
- Phone call or visit that show you simply enjoy their company
- “Sibling date,” special outing for the sibling of a person with special needs
- Play dates at a park or playground
Gifts of Time and Service
- Accompany the person to an appointment with a doctor, physical therapist, etc.
- Grocery shopping, doing laundry, house cleaning, or yard work
- Skills such as home repair, computer training, or tutoring
- Tag team with another person to offer a date night to a couple—one of you host the couple for dinner while the other entertains the kids at home
- Cake, pie, cupcakes, or cookies of the month
- A meal once or twice a month—make the visit a time for fellowship not just “drop and go”
- Salad in a box—fill snack bags with various salad toppings like nuts, dried fruit, feta, pumpkin seeds; include a note to “just add greens and dressing”; great for mailing!
- Themed food basket
Gifts You Can Unwrap
- Restaurant gift card—make sure it is enough to fully cover the cost of the meal
- Gas or supermarket gift cards
- Kitchen gadget that simplifies meal prep
- Netflix subscription or music CDs/downloads
- Something related to a hobby the person enjoys
- Books or magazines for caregivers while waiting in doctors’ offices and hospitals
- Box of sunshine—bright yellow things like Juicy Fruit gum, lemonade packets, yellow notepad, cupcakes with yellow icing, yellow stress ball, etc.
Gifts of Respite
- In-home care for the person with a disability so caregivers can grocery shop, run errands, or enjoy an afternoon or evening out
- Spa or manicure/pedicure gift card
- Tickets for recreation such as bowling, mini-golf, or a big upcoming sporting event
- Gift certificate for Airbnb house when families travel for medical appointments or a weekend away
- A getaway for families living with disability by sharing your vacation home, boat, RV, four-wheelers, horse, etc. Great opportunity to fellowship together!
Keep in mind that some families may be hesitant to accept gifts such as cleaning their homes or excursions that might require more energy than they have at the time. Don’t be hurt if they decline an offer; find another gift that will mean more to them.
I hope these suggestions encourage you to reach out to a family touched by disability this Christmas and in the coming year. Life really is much sweeter when we give of our time and ourselves!