We spend hours deciding what to give our loved ones for a gift and we are often tempted to lean towards convention. But unless we understand what was really needed, we can never tell if our gifts made their recipients happy. However, once you start knowing your loved ones better, you may be surprised that the simplest of things can end up being the best gifts. 

In a world where we have become busy with our jobs and errands, taking time to be with family and friends tops the list of gifts. 

Shopping for groceries for a senior citizen during colder weather is a wonderful gift. | Nazreena Anwar-Travas

Last year, Adam Raymar’s children gave him a new smartphone. “It was full of applications and looked pretty grand. But that was it, nothing more,” he says sadly. Then a year later, his niece moved to Alberta and started calling him every Sunday. “It is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Raymar remarks. “This is what I really wanted — a simple phone call, someone to talk to and make me feel alive. Not a fancy phone that never resounded with a call.”

For Sherryz Dhaliwal, a young mother, her neighbours offering to babysit twice a week was the best gift ever. “I inherited a piano from my grandmother and was gifted a dozen song books on my birthday, but I had no time to practice. Thanks to my thoughtful neighbours, I can now actually play a few songs,” she beams.

Helping a friend to clean their house is another gift idea. | Nazreena Anwar-Travas

Rosa Michaela, a widow living alone and whose only child is living abroad, has a different story to tell. “Since my dearest husband passed away years ago, I have never set up a Christmas tree. Last year, my son’s friends dropped in suddenly, pulled the tree out of storage, and set it up! It was so nice seeing the tree lit after all those years.” Rosa wipes away tears of happiness. “The tree brought back wonderful memories. I am so thankful to these young men.” 

For Kala Ravi, a senior citizen living alone, having someone volunteer to sell her furniture was a great help. “I needed space to move around in my wheelchair as well as the extra money.”

Offering to organize a storage area can help save friends and family a lot of time. | Nazreena Anwar-Travas

Even simple things like grocery shopping, shoveling snow, offering to walk a dog, or cooking and cleaning can make a big difference. Help a friend to clean their garage. Unused discount coupons might be useful to someone. Offer financial assistance to people who need it. While giving a cash gift card may seem to be an ordinary gift, the extra money might go a long way in helping someone experiencing difficult times. 

From a personal perspective, years ago my colleagues helping me to relocate from Calgary when my husband was sick was the best gift I could ever ask for. For an immigrant to Canada like myself with no family, friendship is a huge gift without which I would have ended up homesick. Offering to draft a resume, being a professional mentor, or even familiarizing them with a city’s sights and sounds is a big blessing for many newcomers to Canada who are unfamiliar with the new life. 

“Gifting comes from the heart and soul,” my grandma used to say. “Your gifts must fill up hearts and decorate a person’s life, not empty spaces.” 

Setting up furniture for a neighbour who needs help is a valuable gift. | Nazreena Anwar-Travas