We women like to shop and there’s nothing better than seeing the face of a friend light up when we offer up our thoughtfulness and creativity wrapped in a box with home-made, hand-stamped paper bag wrapping paper, all tied up with a raffia ribbon and dried orange slices. Say what?
If you’re like me—since it’s the thought that counts—you basically try to stuff the gift into a dollar-store gift bag, rip the wrinkled tag off, and wrap a strip of shipping tape on the handle so it doesn’t burst. But I used to be the girl that did rafia with home-made dried orange slices.
Either way, shopping for a chronically ill friend can be both fun and intimidating. We want to give her something she’ll like (she can’t get enough of that American Indian blanket she brought back from Arizona last year) but we don’t want to add to the frustration of giving her a gift she won’t really use (like a matching leather jacket with fringe sleeves to wear out to those Christmas parties).
And how many bottles of scented lotion can a girl really use? And if she gets another “Be Happy Bouquet” or “Teddy Bear” she’ll run screaming from the room.
Here are 13 ideas to get you brainstorming for things she may enjoy:
1. Make her a wall collage
Even if you aren’t crafty, head on down to your craft store and buy a few scrapbooking embellishments. Spray paint a bulletin board and attach your photos, notes, special poems, and the little do-dads you bought. The less crafty you are the more she’ll love it, but don’t be offended if she puts it in her bedroom and not above the couch in the living room.
2. A spa!
Okay, so you can’t afford the $3000 hot tub, but if she’s able to get into the tub (many people can’t, so double check) give her a bathtub jets spa. Amazon sells the Conair Thermal Bath Spa Mat for under $100.
3. Is she a movie buff?
Treat her to a gift of movie rentals via postal mail through a service ($7-15 a month) for a year. This is one of those presents she will call you and thank you for again and again.
4. Buy her some cheery winter necessities
A fun umbrella, a colorful scarf and gloves, even a pair of ear muffs. And if she has to be places when her car windows are going to frost over be sure to stick in a can of spray defroster.
5. Get her a pretty gift box to keep all of her notes of encouragement
Remind her to get it out and read things when she is feeling down. Start to fill up the box yourself a few weeks before giving it to her. You can clip articles, comments, scriptures, funny photos. If you wish, put them in envelopes that say, “When you’re feeling like no one understands” or “When you need a good laugh.” Let her friends know that it would be encouraging if they would start sending her items or notes to add to it in the new year too!
6. Plant a rosebush or another hearty plant that require little maintenance that she can view from a window
Or get a bird feeder, a wind chime or a fun solar-powered patio decoration.
7. Give her a compilation CD of songs that will encourage her when she is feeling down
If you know someone who is 18 years or younger, there is an organization, Songs of Love, that will actually write a song for an ill child. See songsoflove.org . Also, consider buying books on CD if she loves to read but can’t always focus long. Or get her a shower CD player to help make the transition to the shower easier on those sore mornings.
8. Order some items from her favorite organization at their web site
For example, Rest Ministries has some darling items that say “Hope Endures” which don’t have the word “illness” on it. In black and white, the fleece jackets and little tote purses are cute and a reminder to her that you support the organizations she supports.
9. A basket of goodies
Short on time? Check out wellbaskets.com where you can order the perfect gift basket for a friend who has diabetes, a thyroid issue, cancer, depression or chronic pain. They fill them with appropriate food goodies, CDs, books, teas and more.
A heating pad, a blanket, warm socks, or a cozy neck wrap. If you’re creative, give her a hot water bottle and make a liner that will make her laugh. During those cold winter months this will be a nice reminder of your friendship. A few new throw pillows can live a place up too. Buy something soft and comfy to lie back on or prop a leg up on.
11. Crafty stuff
If she is bored and has a sense of humor, bring out the kid in her and bring some markers, coloring books, origami books, etc. Or find out if there is a new hobby she’d like to read more about whether it’s photography or gardening in pots and buy her current magazines and books on this topic.
12. A charm bracelet
This is a sentimental gift if you can make a habit of buying charms as future gifts that signify the strength and hope you see in her. You can find charms for nearly anything online if you’re unable to find them at the store. And some can be silly—just have a story behind each one that will make her smile. Remember to buy her charms celebrating anniversaries too—those dates no one else will remember.
13. One of the best gifts of all? A JOY Coupon!
This is from Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend, but can easily be reproduced even in a handwritten note. JOY stands for “Just Offering You…” and then write out whatever you will do: Mow the law, do all the laundry (sheets included!), baby sit, drive her to appointments, or even just listen to her vent for thirty minutes without saying a word.
All gifts that come in boxes are fun, but the best gift of all you can give is your time and your unconditional love. When she is throwing up in your new car, when she is canceling plans for the third time, when she is calling you at midnight in tears, or when she is making you uncomfortable as she laughs about all her hair falling out. Being a true friend through all of this is a gift few will give and those who do will be treasured forever.
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and author of Beyond Casseroles 505 Ways Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend