Why does Valentine’s Day feel more about consumer pressure to buy and dine, than taking time to cherish the people we love? While we often think of the context in a romantic relationship, this is a wonderful time of year to show love to those we owe so much: our elders.
If you have a tradition you loved as a child, revive it! If you didn’t, make a new one. Sometimes new traditions just pop up: going to a matinee movie with your grandmother or baking a special family recipe together.
One of our family traditions is an Oscars party, with family and friends, and cheap red fabric out the door to make a Red Carpet for guests. We make fun finger food, buy cheap prizes for winning guesses on our simple ballots, and drag as many chairs as will fit into our tiny living room. No one minds the tight quarters, and it’s become a mother-daughter tradition that our friends look forward to year after year.
After all, our time is the most valuable “thing” we can give to a loved one.
Share Elders’ Stories
Parents, grandparents, and elderly friends have terrific stories about their own childhoods, and they love to share with younger generations. Grab a video camera and have your child ask: What’s a special memory you have from when you were my age? These interviews may inspire young people to see older family members in a whole new light, as well as creating a permanent reminder of someone they love. Even the youngest children are now quite skilled with a smart phone camera.
StoryCorps offers ideas and questions to ask. Gadgets can make it fun for younger generations to participate: a smart phone to create a spontaneous movie, a digital recorder with built in USB for easy file sharing, Livescribe Smartpen that links audio to handwritten notes, the recording feature of “notebook” view in Microsoft Word, and iPhone dictation apps like Voice Memo and Dragon Dictate.
It’s not too early to think about school holidays: Presidents’ Day, spring break, Memorial Day and summer. There are many places—global and local—to volunteer. UniversalGiving offers vetted volunteer opportunities for all budgets. Philanthropy Indaba creates group and custom travel itineraries. Family Circle Advisors and Wealth Legacy Group work with families of wealth to create highly personalized ways to connect. (A word of caution: your kids will see right through a special trip to give back if they don’t see giving back as part of your family’s regular routine.)
Philanthropy — the love of mankind — begins at home, and crosses all generation gaps.