Our four granddaughters ages eighteen to twenty-six, receive personal letters from us each Christmas. Don and I first chat about their challenges and growth over the previous year. Then I fashion our observations into a letter. He looks it over and offers feedback. We do this out of our love for each of them.
This process is a boon to us as well. The walls of our hearts stretch as we search for just the right words. A grandparent’s view of young lives is valuable. We witness them with an elder’s eyes.
Life is a journey of discovering who we are. Loved ones are essential in that process. Trying to see ourselves without the reflections of others is impossible. It’s like trying to see your nose. You can see only part of it with the naked eye. However, with the aid of a mirror you see it all. Others are a looking glass that can reflect our essence.
How do we show our loved ones that we care?
‘Love language ” is a phrase coined by researcher Gary Chapman. He is the author of The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. He says, “Everyone gives and receives love in different ways.” They are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service.
Words of affirmation is the most common love language, followed by quality time and acts of service.
Chapman also said. “If you realize six of the 10 people in your circle prefer words of affirmation and would appreciate a thoughtful card over a material item, you won’t feel as much of a need to spend money on a fancy present.”
OK, I can hear you mumbling. You think that this is an easy task for me because of my profession. True, I have learned a great deal about communication. But it is not easy. Heartfelt words are always hard to offer. Why? We must reach inside, under all protective layers, to places of vulnerability. When we look there, we discover our bond to others and ourselves. Truths like these come from tender places.
You might find it easier to write rather than speak your observations.
Keep it simple.
Try using stem sentences like these; Our relationship is a gift to me because…. Keep writing this until you run out of thoughts. Or, you might write; You are a gift to me in many ways. Here are three that I treasure. Remember it’s not quantity of words that count, but heartfelt honesty. We are not giving them advice on how they might grow. We are expressing our gratitude for who they are. Period.
You might even suggest that you, your partner, or family members do this exercise with each other.
Sadly, if we don’t tell them now, people we love will die never knowing how they have touched our lives. Too many of us save our kindest observations of others to deliver at their funerals. It is somehow safer to say how much we care once they are gone.
Make time this gift-giving season to tell a cared for person the gift they are for you. Imagine how that might touch them and you. Giving of ourselves is much more valuable than giving expensive items.
You know why?
Underneath all the holiday wrapping paper and bows, our soul longs for something more. We desire a real connection with others and ourselves. The best gifts are the ones that help build genuine connections. Are we willing to have courageous conversations? Do we dare tell others what we appreciate about them?
Soon Don and I will begin our conversation about each granddaughter. We will identify significant events in each of their lives. We will look for their unique qualities. Then their letters will be waiting for them under the Christmas tree. We will tell them that we see who they are. Through our words, they will also be learning more about who their grandparents are.
I dare you to see and be seen this holiday season.