Want to hear a secret? Being present is more important than receiving presents this year. I've never been a good gift giver, because this is not one of my primary ways I show that I care about someone. Shopping usually terrifies me as I try to figure out how to show I care for someone through a material gift. This year, my mind can't even go there. The idea of shopping for presents just falls flat.
Right now, what I'm valuing is one last time with friends in the area. I feel doubly blessed by taking them up on offers to help us move even when they know there's no way we can pay them back in like kind. Frankly, it's so helpful because I can't think beyond the movers coming next week. This is the second time with kids we're moving over the winter holidays, and it's not easy. I grew up with both parents in the military, I was a U.S. Marine Corps officer, and I'm now a military spouse with kids. This is my 30th move. However, this is not an article about military families or moving or hardships. It's about what matters to all of us: being valued and feeling loved.
Presence is more valuable than presents. Wouldn't you rather spend time with people you enjoy being around, than shopping for more things none of us really need?
Instead of buying gifts for people right now, I have been getting rid of unused things. To still my thoughts about whittling down and organizing at the end of the day I read. This week I'm on a Dickens kick after coming off of Ernest Hemingway, and I'm finding his underlying themes to be thought provoking in a good way. Charles Dickens' extensively wrote about what the real meaning behind Christmas was in his Christmas stories: A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, and The Cricket on the Hearth. He espouses and I whole-heartedly agree that we should all be taking care of all human beings, regardless of class (which was big during the 1800s), faith, or ethnicity. And, it is something we should do all year long.
Finding loving second homes for material possessions is one way to take care of families in need. Right now we're pruning our household items so that our "things" will fit into the smaller on-post housing we’ll be moving into the day before Christmas. Do you think you could prune and repurpose as well? When you have too many "things," you get bogged down. Sometimes we lose the gist of gift giving when we get stuck in wanting, desiring, and acquiring.
More is not necessarily better or necessary. Neither is new or forced giving.
2. Time Sensitive
Through living a military lifestyle, the one thing that you become very comfortable with is change. People that live in the same place their entire lives often forget this salient fact. The only thing that you can guarantee is change. Let me take this one step further: nobody knows which day will be their last day. Do not put off spending quality time with your loved ones. Time is limited. Your life may feel like Groundhog Day; however, each day is new and it is different. Don't be lulled or deceived into thinking you have endless days with your friends and love ones.
This is perhaps the one thing I struggle the most with others whenever we move. Our family knows, give or take, a few months how long we'll probably live in a city. So each move we jump in creating a support network and community for us and our kids. We know the time in an area is finite, but it often takes until 6 months before we leave for our friends to understand we are leaving. And, their reaction goes one of two ways. Either they slowly stop talking to us as they faze us out of their lives, or they make more attempts to get together and build memories.
I value people who take a chance on us knowing we are transient. We've been moving every 12-15 months lately, and if we were not connecting and making good friends; then our lives would be bleak and depressing. Many of us struggle with making and keeping friendships as adults regardless if we move around or not. Don't get too busy.
Taking time to spend with friends and loved ones shows people in actions what they value most in their lives. If you have people like this in your life, these are the friends worth keeping and making an effort to keep, especially when you are rushed and hurried. Technology can help — hurray for Facebook, and keeping in touch! Genuinely connecting with others goes a long way in our family. I think it does in yours too, when you stop to think about the past year and its most salient memories. It's with the people you love and enjoy to be around, right?
3. Hottest Commodity
We all have trouble slowing down the rat race. Putting aside our busy work can be the best present to others, and ourselves, because, let's face it: most of us are constantly worn out from our hectic work, school, and extracurricular activities. Being present means 100 percent of your attention is focused on the people that are in the same space as you. It doesn't mean you need huge chunks of time to devote to this practice of giving presence.
It's as simple as extending friendly conversations with the grocery clerk, or as you pass by parents dropping or picking their kids up from school. It also means paying attention to the ups and downs of your partner, siblings, parents, and children's day. Where you may see the most return on your investment is listening and talking with your significant other and your children about their day and life lessons. Regularly schedule down time to just do nothing with other people; it recharges everyone's batteries. We do not have infinite time here on Earth.
I believe our mental and physical health have a lot to do with our interaction and experience with unconditional love; which is unhurried, no conditions, come-as-you-are love. I love you just because you're you. I don't care what you're wearing or where you live; I just care about taking the time to just be with you. The most valuable gift you can give is your presence to every single person you interact with because it is priceless.
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