When a "get well soon" card is not quite enough
April 25, 2016 12:06 PM   Subscribe

About a year ago, my family moved into a house in a new neighborhood. Our next door neighbors have been welcoming from the beginning and we like them a lot. We found out recently that our neighbor had a heart attack, and is currently recuperating at home while taking a break from work. We'd like to get a gift to show our support. Flowers seem insufficient, Gift Basket maybe too impersonal. We're feeling stumped and would love some ideas.

These folks have been amazing: They helped us remove ice dams from our roof during a difficult winter, they have become friends with our young son, and they gave us a huge basket of clothes and toys when our daughter was born. We are also quite busy with two kids, so need something that will not require extensive amounts of our own time and energy (we probably can't cook them a dinner, for example, as we are just managing to cook for ourselves). How can we be good neighbors here?
posted by cubby to Human Relations (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are there services you could pay for? Delivery food, a cleaning service, yard work, pet walking, that sort of thing? I bet they'd appreciate not having to think about managing that for a little while, especially if the neighbor who had the heart attack usually takes care of that thing.
posted by dismas at 12:09 PM on April 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

Instead of cooking them something, bring over a pre-fab selection of sandwich ingredients or reheatable foods so nobody has to cook.

Sign them up for Netflix if they don't have it already-- it's great for people who are recuperating and bored.

Get them a gift certificate for a session of housecleaning so they don't have to worry about it while getting better.

If you are doing anything fun with your kids, and their kids are compatible, offer to take their kids along so they can get out of the house for a bit. It gives everybody a break.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:12 PM on April 25, 2016 [8 favorites]

Whatever else you give, I think including your cell phone numbers and emails in the card along with an explanation that you are more than happy to help with anything that comes up when they are away from home or need a bit of extra assistance. Our neighbors are so friendly and I like them a lot, and I was kicking myself for not getting their contact info when I was pregnant so that we could have asked them to go over in the morning and let our dog out to pee after my water broke at 1am and we ended up at the hospital two weeks earlier than planned.

I feel like the security of knowing you have a neighbor who can take care of little things (feeding pets, watering plants, pulling packages inside) is worth its weight in gold, and making it clear that you're happy to help with that stuff might be a load off their mind.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:34 PM on April 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

Let them know that unless they explicitly stop you, you're going to mow their lawn.
posted by intermod at 12:37 PM on April 25, 2016 [15 favorites]

I'm Italian, so nothing says Love to me like FOOD.

I say bring them a luscious collection of fresh fruits, jams, spreads, cookies and so forth. Food is Love! Food is Love!
posted by Dressed to Kill at 12:37 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, cook a bunch of food for them, mow their yard, etc.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:02 PM on April 25, 2016

When my father was recuoerating from his heart attack, his diet was incredibly regimented, so food might not be the best idea, but maybe. Yardwork, definitely, however, cardiac rehab is hard and getting my father to stop with the !*%@! yardwork already after his first cardiac rehab was stupidly difficult. So, mow their lawn (when you're doing yours) and six months from now, rake the leaves, then shovel the walk. You'll be the kindest, best neighbors.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:11 PM on April 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

Piping in to say that yard work/other acts of service, volunteered explicitly by you, spell out l-o-v-e. Could you bring in and take out their trash dumpsters each week? Wash their car when you wash yours? Giving them your cell phone number is nice but there's a huge difference between saying "Call me if you need anything" and "I can do ____ on Tuesday".
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 1:28 PM on April 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

Food may be problematic, only because sometimes a change in diet is needed for the recovering person. (Low fat, high fiber, no cheese.)

I love helping out around their house for them. That's a nice offer.

Call before heading out to the grocery store and see if they need anything that you can pick up for them. EVERY time you go to the store.

A big pile of shitty magazines (or maybe that's me.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:43 PM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Please ignore all advice indicating "Do time-consuming, labor-intensive things for them" as you already specified you don't have the time or energy to do them. I second the advice to pay for a few weeks with a cleaning service, dog walker, food delivery, lawn mower, or other similar service to take those sorts of chores off their plates for a while. You should not feel personally obligated to do them if you don't have time.
posted by town of cats at 2:06 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

The most thoughtful gifts are the ones that show you know something about someone. Do you know if they already have a yard service? Maid service? Enough casseroles in the freezer? If you don't, it's harder to buy something thoughtful. And most people are not going to flat-out ask you to pay for a maid or whatever, so asking is hard. You can visit, though (take flowers), and maybe that will give you clues as to what would help them. That would also give you the chance to leave your contact information if they don't have it.

Helping them might mean hanging out with the sick spouse while the well one goes to church or the drugstore. Or yes, buying a few months of lawn or maid service. Or taking their car for an oil change. Or getting a box down from a shelf that they need. You really have to get closer to the situation to know what would be the most useful. This will take some effort on your part. But as you said, they've done a lot for you, and it would be nice if you could return that favor.
posted by emjaybee at 2:26 PM on April 25, 2016

Came in to suggest lawn mowing, but I see I've been beaten to it. But if you can't do the mowing yourself, how about hiring someone, even just a local teen or two, to do it?
posted by easily confused at 3:32 PM on April 25, 2016

Fresh fruit, maybe a nice bottle of wine, which I think is good for heart patients (?), errand-running if you can do it, and if the kids are old enough, handmade cards. My kid + some neighbor kids made drawings when an elderly neighbor was ill. Big hit.
posted by theora55 at 3:45 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

We're in a city and have plenty of asphalt but no lawns -- but I'll be on the lookout for chores that I might do. For sure next winter I will be insisting on taking on more snow shoveling than usual. My 4 year old already on his own decided to make a card for them - I was so proud we didnt even have to ask him! Based on the advice here we'll probably try to put together some heart healthy food treats and maybe probe more for other ways we can help when we deliver it. Thanks all!
posted by cubby at 4:58 PM on April 25, 2016

My parents received a lovely fresh fruit bouquet from their neighbors after my dad's heart surgery-- they loved the gesture and fruit was part of my dad's recovery diet so they could both enjoy it.
posted by bookmammal at 5:34 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do neighborly things for them like they've done for you. Call or email before you go grocery shopping to see if you can pick up anything for them. Help them take out their garbage and return the cans. Double your salad contents and bring them half, along with a vinaigrette. Drop off some good olive oil one day or a pot of basil or a roasted chicken, etc. They'll appreciate anything that shows you're thinking about them, it models neighborly behavior for your kids and it will make you feel like good neighbor-stewards.
posted by lois1950 at 9:07 PM on April 25, 2016

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