Kids often spend the Christmas season disoriented from sugar highs, stressed by chaotic schedules packed with activities, and struggling with misplaced enthusiasm as their desires for material things run wild.

Senior citizens often spend the Christmas season trying to refrain from treats for health reasons, wishing they could get out more and have more fun, and struggling with loneliness, grief and depression.

But all that changes when kids and seniors spend time together around Christmas. Kids grasp more of Christmas' true meaning, and seniors find more to celebrate. As kids reach out toward elders and seniors reach out toward youngsters, they all touch the timeless love of Christ that's at the heart of Christmas.

My 6-year-old daughter Honor and I have discovered many blessings from building friendships with seniors not just at Christmas, but anytime. Every week, we visit my grandmother (Honor's great-grandmother) Pauline, whose feisty Irish spirit makes her seem like a 29-year-old inside a 92-year-old's body. We also enjoy the company of other seniors who enrich our lives, including other family members and friends from church and elsewhere. Your children may be fortunate enough to have a great-grandparent or even a grandparent living nearby. But, if not, there are many elderly neighbors who would welcome the gift of friendship with your children. The Christmas season is a great time to begin such a friendship.

Kids who invest in relationships with seniors can gain a greater perspective on time that enables them to more fully appreciate the things that truly matter. As they learn about history from those who have greater life experience, they'll learn more about eternity - including why God needed to send His Son to earth on the first Christmas. After visiting the railroad museum her late great-grandmother Lena founded, Honor developed an interest in history that has expanded her horizons. She listens with interest as the seniors she knows describe what life was like years ago. And that gives her a context in which to place current events and make greater sense of them. Most importantly, she sees how God's timeless truths have guided people who lived before her and will continue to guide people even into the future.

Kids who befriend seniors develop valuable compassion as they deal with the frailties of old age firsthand. Honor has learned to be patient while Pauline uses her walker to slowly navigate her way down a sidewalk. She's learned the importance of bringing a glass of cold water to help her great-grandmother take pills. Those lessons have extended to how Honor treats people of all ages. Now she's more understanding when those around her are tired or sick. And she takes the initiative to reach out to people in need, donating piggybank money to missions and making homemade cards for friends and family.

Seniors can also inspire kids with all they've accomplished so far in their long lives. Often, while they're still alive, their legacies are already apparent. Whenever Honor mentions how much she likes living in our hometown, she adds how proud she is that her grandfather Jim helped create such a great place to live while he directed our area's planning commission. Every senior has impacted the world in some way - by raising children, working at a job or volunteering. Kids who can see the good results of work well-done will be motivated to work toward their own goals.

So give your kids the gift of friendship with a senior this Christmas!

Here are some of the many ways your kids and a senior citizen can build a meaningful friendship during the Christmas season:

• Find a senior to befriend. Ask God to show you an older person who could use a new friend. It could be a grandparent, a fellow church member, a neighbor, or the resident of a local assisted living facility or nursing home.

• Set a regular schedule for your kids to visit the senior. Try to visit once a week (or even more frequently, if possible) so they can form a close bond that will last beyond the Christmas season.

• Have the kids and senior share skills with each other. Encourage the senior to teach your kids something from his or her area of expertise. For example, a retired carpenter can show kids how to build something, and a former homemaker can give them cooking lessons. Let your kids share their hobbies with the senior and demonstrate what they've been learning in school. Seniors can provide valuable encouragement as kids learn new skills.

• Help them create something together. Work with the senior and your kids on a simple Christmas project of some kind. They could do a craft together, or even compose a Christmas poem or song to perform. This would build a tangible bridge between them.

• Have them swap stories. When kids and seniors tell each other true stories of their favorite Christmases (or even make up a fictional Christmas tale), they'll learn from each other's experiences and engage their imagination.

• Go caroling. Sing the senior's old favorites and the Christmas songs your kids like, too. Have fun!

• Invite a senior to dinner or a Christmas party. Enjoy a meal and good conversation together.


For more ways to bring Christ's love to a hurting world this season, visit Karen Kingsbury's Red Gloves Projects.