Giving – perspective of a wise elder


We give, don’t we, for all kinds of reasons.

The doorbell rings or we are stopped at the grocery store and we make a token gift because we find it less embarrassing than saying “no.” And we don’t miss it.

Appeals for donations flood our mailbox weekly, if not daily, and we put them aside until, on impulse, we chose one or two and send a check fearful that by so doing our name will appear on some other mailing list, and we will learn of some other life-threatening cause. And life goes on.

As Christmas approaches, we check our card list to be sure that we don’t omit anyone who sent to us last year, or as we plan a small gathering we fit in the “Smiths” because we “owe them a favor.” And the world understands.

Once in a while, we are moved by the look in the eye of a starving boy in Somalia or the sobs of an elderly woman whose home has been destroyed by a hurricane and we feel uncomfortable in our comfort and want to lift their burden just a bit. And the world draws closer.

Occasionally, there emerges a desire to do something for someone for no reason except that we care: an anniversary or birthday, flowers to a friend, a computer for our daughter, a special surprise gift chosen with care for your spouse. And the world smiles.

Perhaps we give ourselves gifts, too, from time to time. Rewarding ourselves with chocolates or a steak dinner. And we feel we deserved it. And the world nods its head in approval.

But from time to time, we want to do something really significant. In our church or in our community: a new hospital or an addition and we stretch ourselves and give a bit more generously than usual and maybe then, we really are convinced that it is necessary and we celebrate the results. And the world is better for it.

Sometimes, we give until we can feel the impact on our own lives. A major purchase must be delayed or trip postponed, or the whole budget is pinched in order to tithe. And the world, if it knows and it seldom does, does not understand for it can relate to obligations and tit for tat and visible rewards but it does not comprehend the deep need each of us has to give. It makes us human.

Close to home

I am grateful. That, in itself, is a good reason to give. I am grateful that my dad taught me there are many good reasons to give: someone is hurting, seeing a child sitting in the wreckage of a hurricane, or a need just wells up within us and we want to respond. My dad taught me the fun of giving. Is fun the right word? Maybe it is joy, satisfaction, or even guilt. I think fun feels best.

When I was about 10. My dad said, “I think it’s about time you thought about giving regularly to the church.” I had a paper route making about $6 per month. A nickel a week sounded good to me. Then he talked about tithing. Ten percent! Sixty cents a month! That was a weekly movie! Or six ice-cream free milkshakes! But it made me feel like an adult.

I have never looked back.

At this season, especially, we are offered a myriad of opportunities to give. Some will be scams, so be careful, but most will be valid needs bringing health, wholeness, and hope.

There is one relevant to where we live. How do we recognize those who serve at our table, clean our rooms, fix our plumbing, and watch our safety? We need to put that in perspective. We are not encouraged to tip. But in our combined gifts we can recognize and thank those who enrich daily.

About the author:  Dick Smith, Minister, and Community Leader

20161216_130223Dick and Harriet Smith have been part of the Florence, Oregon community for the past thirty years and live at  Shorewood Senior Living. Dick has been involved in countless projects, businesses, and groups.

His mother taught him that if you have leadership ability it will be discovered. There is no need to push yourself into it or brag about yourself. Dick believes there is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.

Mr. Smith attended Yale University where he met his wife. They were both attending the Divinity school there. He is a retired Presbyterian minister and has been married to his sweetheart for 67 years. They say, “Life is good basically – we both agree on that.”

In 1992 Dick was nominated for the First Citizen award for Florence in recognition for his work and contribution to the many groups and businesses.


“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” ― Mother Teresa

Pat Monahan led a pop tabs project in partnership with Ronald McDonald.  She saw a need and decided to see if her friends and family could help fill that need.  After decades of giving this elder feels like she has just begun to give!

As a life enrichment director of an assisted living in Redding California, it was a life-changing epiphany to realize that my job was not to entertain our elders, but to create avenues to bring purpose to their lives. I have the privilege of working with the most generous and sacrificial generation.

  • A generation who gave through coming together and surviving the Great Depression.
  • A generation who served and defended our nation through World War II.
  • A generation who created a stable and thriving economy through hard work and ingenuity after the war.
  • A generation  who  ran households and who created and grew businesses.
  • A generation of war heroes who deserve to live with purpose and joy.

In retirement, though many of these elders enjoy and pursue hobbies, interests. and other goals time now allows; they still innately love and desire to share a legacy and a spirit of generosity to give with purpose.

As this epiphany of bringing purpose to the forefront began to sink in, we began to intentionally create opportunities for our residents to give, and our residents came alive in ways we had never seen.

Residents who did not usually participate in our games, parties, or activities, would come to events centered around helping others.

  • We gave 25 backpacks to local children in need.
  • We adopted a kindergarten class in a local elementary school for whom we threw monthly parties and gave lots of hugs.
  • We raised enough money to give 35 families turkeys for Thanksgiving.
  • We collected the largest shipment of pop tabs used to raise funds that the Northern California Ronald McDonald House in Sacramento has ever received.

This was all accomplished by a group of 45 elders, their families, and our Sundial Assisted Living team. This generation does not see elderhood as a time just to sit back and receive after decades of hard work. They want to continue giving and growing through helping others and passing on this spirit of generosity to following generations.

About the guest author:  Holly Heleniak, Community Relations Director, Sundial Assisted Living, Redding California

holly-head-shotHolly says, “I consider myself truly blessed to have a job which allows me to spend time having fun and creating memories with incredible people.” Previously, Holly was a part of an international Christian ministry for ten years, traveling around the United States and abroad. She is a graduate of Texas Tech University and proudly hails from the state of Texas. Outside of work, Holly enjoys traveling, interior decorating, sports, being an aunt, and very soon a mom for the first time! . She also enjoys being involved in her local church. And of course, a great joy is singing and entertaining  residents with other Sundial team members!