Instead of Stuff: The Gift of Time

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We just got back from a two-hour hike. This was my family’s gift to me. Because the one thing I need, the only thing I need, is time. Time to relax. Time to reflect on the goodness in my life. Time to just be with the people I love—free from the stress of thinking about the rest of life waiting for me when I get back.

It had just rained a good one for a few days, and so the creek was rushing strong. Mauricio had told me that whenever he sees the water running down the side of the streets, all he can think of is racing paper boats like he did when he was a kid in El Salvador. He says that when kids have tons of toys, they’re deprived of the opportunity to see play all around them. So he and Giovanni made paper boats and we raced them down the creek on our hike. There’s nothing in the world they could have put a bow on that would have made me happier.

What I often forget is that giving time to someone in today’s instant-on, always-going world is a true gift.

It was my wise and talented friend Larraine who first made me realize it. She told me a few years ago that for Christmas, she just wished I would make the time to get together with her. Time in the middle of my busy work season as clients tried to wrap up projects before the holidays. Time in the middle of trying to get presents for everyone under the sun and ship them out in time for Christmas. Time in the middle of trying to attend every performance and gathering to give my kids a magical Christmas. It was the one thing I didn’t have that she wanted.

We both miss our time together before careers, before husbands, before kids, when we could spend hours hanging out and contemplating topics both deep and shallow. It seems that both of our lives have gotten crazy out of hand with being adults. And so, each year for the past few, we’ve gotten together to make Christmas cookies. We’ve stopped buying stuff for each other. And this time, I even resisted the urge to put a bow on a jar of my homemade strawberry preserves. I’m glad I did. Because she didn’t give me stuff either. Instead, we just got a chance to talk and catch up as the kids decorated cookies for about three minutes total before running off to play. I came away feeling refreshed and grateful to have such a loyal friend. And we gave each other what we wanted most from each other.

Presence instead of presents.