This idea is excerpted from Barbara’s book CARE Packages for the Home–Dozens of Ways to Regenerate Spirit Where You Live (Andrews-McMeel, 1998)
Maybe you are wondering how you can help someone get through the holidays in the midst of severe problems, illness, or grief. Here is the story of how one idea helped and how it continues to multiply every year.
The Idea In Action:
Carlene Eneroth of Spokane, Washington, lost her husband from a massive heart attack when he was only 31 years old. Even though her whole world had come to a screeching halt, Carlene was flabbergasted to discover that life was moving right on even though her grief had kept her out of touch. Most of all, she dreaded her first Christmas without Greg.
On Thanksgiving weekend her parents arrived with a big, open-topped box, covered with bright Christmas wrap and containing many small, gaily-wrapped presents inside. Carlene says, “At first I wanted to scream, cry, run and hide. Didn’t they know I didn’t want anything in my home that spoke of this awful upcoming holiday season?”
Her mother put the box on the table and explained that since all of them couldn’t be together for Christmas, she wanted this box to help her through the hard month ahead. She suggested Carlene unwrap one present each day. Carlene thanked them and then quickly shoved the box over in the corner behind a chair, hoping to forget its very existence.
After a bad day at work on December 1, Carlene remembered those presents and decided to open one. She found a classy new pot holder. The next day she woke up to a “gray” day when, for no reason except her grief, everything was awful. She opened another present–some cute little note pads. Each day she amazed herself by giving herself “permission” to open another little present (knee-high stockings, new ball point pens, garden gloves, envelopes of hot chocolate, stationery). Each one subtly reminded her that Christmas was coming whether she liked it or not, and she might as well face it. But most important of all, for a few minutes every single day, she felt loved and remembered.
A couple of years later when she met a young woman and her three little children who had recently lost their Dad to suicide, she remembered her Mom’s box idea. She said:
I wasn’t sure how I could create a “Cheer Box” for a whole family, but I wanted to try. First, I spent some time at the local discount toy store where I found several little games all the kids could play. Then I included in the box little things for the kitchen along with some special food items and candy/gum treats. As I wrapped each gift, I numbered it to open on a particular day of the month. This helped to insure that they wouldn’t be opening three kitchen items or three toys in a row.
I was a little nervous that the kids wouldn’t think it was fun unless they found a game or toy each day, but to my surprise, in January the mother called. She said, ‘You just wouldn’t believe how excited the kids got about the ‘Cheer Box!’ When we had visitors, the kids even dragged them into the kitchen right away to show off Mom’s new kitchen towel. They were as thrilled to open these kind of things as they were about the games!’
After her first experience, Carlene was encouraged to continue, and now she does one or two boxes a year. She begins buying little items she sees on sale all through the year, and when November comes, she is ready to begin planning on who needs a box and what to put in it. One church group decided their Ladies’ Circle would try the idea. Each person brought three days’ worth of presents.
After the death of Carlene’s family doctor last summer, his medical office adopted this idea as something to be done for his wife. A parent on one of the soccer teams in her area suddenly died, and the team parents got together with this idea and made up a fun box for the entire family.
Another group knew that one family was missing their Mom’s cooking of special holiday goodies their first Christmas without her, so they assigned a lady each day of the month to take over hot, fresh goodies that were traditional in their families. An older gentleman in her church had no relatives nearby after his wife of 60 years died. Carlene and his friends wanted to make him a “Cheer Box”, but she said, “We were not sure what to buy for a man. We decided on a current magazine, hot chocolate envelopes, a new screwdriver, golf balls and tees, and toiletry items–it’s the idea that counts, not the gifts themselves.”
Reprinted with permission from Bereavement magazine, 8133 Telegraph Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80920.
A “Holiday Cheer Box” would be a marvelous family project whether your family is made up of one or two persons or several. Think about someone who is having a struggle near the holiday season and then put your care into constructive action. As Carlene says, “The ideas and possibilities are endless!”
Barbara Glanz Biography
A member of the prestigious Speaker Hall of Fame and one of fewer than 700 Certified Speaking Professionals worldwide, Barbara Glanz, CSP, CPAE, works with organizations to improve morale, retention and service and with people who want to rediscover the joy in their work and in their lives. She is the first speaker on record to have spoken on all 7 continents and in all 50 states. Known as "the business speaker who speaks to your heart as well as to your head," Barbara is the author of twelve books including The Simple Truths of Service Inspired by Johnny the Bagger®, CARE Packages for the Workplace, and 180 Ways to Spread Contagious Enthusiasm™. Voted "best keynote presenter you have heard or used" by Meetings & Conventions Magazine, Barbara uses her Master’s degree in Adult Learning to design programs that cause behavior change. She lives and breathes her personal motto: “Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm™” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.barbaraglanz.com.