Gifts for Grandpa and Grandma

“Do us a favor,” my dad said to his extended family. “Don’t buy your mother and me a Christmas present this year. We don’t need anything, so save your money.” They were probably right; our presents to them were mere tokens of our feelings, and every year they were given more “things” they could not use. But we—the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—wanted to give them something. What could we give them that would express our love but would also be meaningful to our parents? What could we give them that they wanted, needed, and would enjoy? The answer we came up with was time and attention. Our parents were most happy when we gave them gifts of ourselves—something we could do year round.

So each member of the family—from the oldest child and her spouse to the youngest great-grandchild—chose a date and a specific gift of time and attention he would give on that day. There were enough people in the family to give our parents a gift each week of the year. Then we wrote a clever title for each gift on a large calendar which we gave to our parents at a family Christmas party.

The calendar recorded only the name of the event; no mention was made of what the gift was or who would give it. This gave our parents something to look forward to with curiosity. At the beginning of each week, they anxiously waited for the present to arrive. Their friends also became involved; they all tried to guess what each gift would be, then enjoyed seeing what it really was.

A “Labor of Love” was a gift from a son-in-law who spent a day doing necessary repair jobs.

A daughter and her husband planned “Two Twins Together,” taking our parents to visit Dad’s twin brother in another city. “Call Coming” was a visit by phone from a grandson living in another state. The entire family got together for “Sacks for Stuffed Stomachs,” a family picnic where we brought and traded sack lunches.

Our parents have loved these gifts. And we found so much joy in this project that we have made it a family tradition. It has been very satisfying to receive a call from happy parents saying, “We just got another Christmas present—‘the Tape Tactics.’ It was from Julie and her family. They all talked to us on a cassette tape—they even captured the baby’s gurgling. We love it!”

Whenever family members go to Grandma’s home, the conversation always turns to the latest calendar gift. “It can’t be topped,” our parents say, and yes, it is what they want and need and can use.

Our calendar has become a real gift of love. Sharon Ballif, Ogden, Utah.

Speaking from the Heart

I slipped into the back row of the room to listen to a shy ten-year-old boy give his talk. Although he was not especially confident, he delivered his talk with no awkward pauses or glances at his mother. He referred to a scripture and shared an experience from his life to illustrate his point. When he took his seat and began fidgeting with his paper, I suddenly noticed that there were less than a dozen words written on it. He had not read his talk; he had expressed the main ideas in his own words!

Later, his mother told me how she helped her children prepare such talks. First, she takes her child aside and together they choose a subject. Then she asks her child to tell her everything he knows about it. With some prompting, they have a general discussion of the gospel principle. As they talk, she corrects misconceptions and fills in any obvious gaps in his understanding. Then she asks him to tell again, in his own words, everything he knows about the subject. At this point she writes down key words that will help him remember the main points.

Next, they study the scriptures and mark a pertinent verse in the child’s own Bible. Sometimes she shares poems, song lyrics, or quotes from uplifting sources, and lets her child pick one he likes to use in the talk. Her only rule is that if he reads anything, it must be done in less than a minute.

Finally, she discusses with her child what this gospel principle means in his life. Together they review special times when this principle has been important to their family. He uses one of these experiences to close his talk, then bears a testimony.

There are several advantages to this system. Since there is nothing to memorize, there is nothing to forget. It eliminates stumbling over unfamiliar words or getting lost in the middle of a written sheet. And children gain confidence by sharing their own ideas in their own words.

This method also works well for adults. When preparing a talk, pick a subject, study it, search the scriptures, then make an outline of key words, phrases, and references to other source material. Illustrate with real-life, personal examples, and finally, bear testimony.

Speaking from the heart captures and involves the audience.

It invites us to speak the truth as we have come to know and experience it in our lives. And finally, it keeps us open to the Spirit of truth, that both the speaker and the listener “are edified and rejoice together.” (D&C 50:22.) Judy C. Olsen

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Knudsen and Richard Hull