A Gift That Keeps on Giving


This time of year it’s important to think of all the charitable organizations that depend on our contributions to keep their missions afloat.  Since the economy is so difficult now, it’s especially important.  All it takes is a phone call, a check in the mail, or a website visit.  It will be a gift that keeps on giving.  Choosing the perfect gift for individuals gets a lot more complicated.

We’re bombarded with suggestions of what we should buy for those on our holiday list, always with the implication that unbridled happiness will accompany it.  Not true, as everyone knows.  Few things are more disappointing that having a thoughtfully chosen present received with, “Oh, how nice,” and then it’s tossed aside.

Here’s a gift that won’t suffer that fate.  I came upon an idea some years ago that has worked out well for my family, now all adults:  A gift certificate to a massage therapist.  When I first heard about therapeutic massage, the whole idea impressed me as odd. My daughter and her husband were involved in extensive travel with high stress jobs, each week going their own way in their work.  On the weekends, exhausted from the stress of it all, they found therapeutic massage restorative and, more importantly, they found a therapist who knew the value of her practice.  That’s been many years ago and the profession of therapeutic massage has blossomed since those days.

Hotel Roanoke, back in the halcyon days of the Norfolk & Western, employed a fulltime masseuse.  Harry Cowley was his name and he had been trained at The Kellogg Institute back in the 1930s.  Many of the scions of local industry visited him weekly until he became to elderly to continue.  The techniques used are strenuous and require significant strength.

In the 1970s the idea of massage had a rebirth . . . and it was not a good one.  The parlors, as they were known, sprang up like toadstools after a summer rain and they were about as dangerous.  Eventually, most of them disappeared but the idea of massage, which goes back to antiquity, persisted.

Schools to teach the multiple systems of therapeutic massage appeared offering courses which took several years to complete.  Licensing boards were established.  It became recognized that there were substantial health benefits from many types of therapeutic massage.

Having had only anecdotal experience with improvement in musculoskeletal pain and relief of stress, I interviewed Rhonda Amos, a local certified massage therapist, who had a dream and now owns Soothing Techniques.  I was impressed with the casual warmth of the office and her professionalism.  Not only has she been in practice for fifteen years, she recounted the daunting challenges she overcame in setting up her business and operating it.

I had wondered what questions one should ask before investing in a gift certificate from a message therapist.  There are many.  First of all, one should make sure the therapist has been trained in a certified school, is licensed by the State Board of Nursing, and is current in their continuing education courses.  Second, the therapist should take a detailed history from the client about the type of stress, but physical and mental, that has been causing problems.  Third, it should be established that there are no medical contradictions to the planned therapy.  This may require a conversation with physical therapists or physicians who have been treating the potential client. And finally, the atmosphere of the therapist’s office should be completely professional and offer a calming ambience. Once this is accomplished, then a program can be designed to fit individual needs.

In the interest of journalistic integrity, I must say I have had only one massage and that was years ago.  I am not sure I understand from a medical point of view how it worked, but it certainly made me feel quite buoyant.  From the comments of those to whom I have given a gift certificate for massage therapy that is a common experience.

Holidays, despite all the tinsel and hoopla, are stressful.  The idea of giving a gift that will relieve that is one that appeals to me.  With times being what they are, we can use all the help we can get and we can still remember this is the time of giving.