Most “gifts” in our culture are tangible presents — either something we buy, or sometimes make, for another. So when we think of Christmas gifts, or presents for other events like birthdays and anniversaries, we think of “things”. However, given that most people are hard to buy presents for because they “already have everything”, truly meaningful gifts are often taking on a different characteristic.
This past week I had a birthday and I had a wonderful day. I started by sleeping in a little, and then went for a run on a cool, fall morning. I went to work for the morning, and then had a nice lunch with some friends and one of my sons. After completing my work in the afternoon, I met up with my family (all except my son who is at college in Texas) and they gave me my birthday gift.
The gift I asked for was not one they (or I could purchase) and not the typical gift you unwrap. They gave me the gift of taking time out to (willingly) do an activity with me that I enjoy — and wanted to do together with them. In some ways the activity itself is not that important. In fact, it might be good to think about those things that you would enjoy taking time to do on your birthday (or at Christmas), and an activity that you would really enjoy sharing with your family. The key to this gift (for me) was that it is an activity I enjoy, but none of my family really does. In fact, over the years, I have included them (sometimes by coercion) — asking them to go with me, and they generally haven’t enjoyed the experience. In fact, over the years, it became clear that they really didn’t like the activity and would only go out of guilt, pressure, or not at all.
The fact that they chose to go with me truly was a gift because it was a sacrifice for them to participate. What made it even more special and fun for me was that we actually had a good time together (I had fun because they did).
So after we were done fishing together for two hours, we went home and enjoyed a home-cooked steak, salad and baked potato dinner — along with the traditional birthday cake.
And then the fun continued — we hung out together and played a board game together, laughing at each other until we were ready to call it a night (at least, for Kathy and I). Not the typical Friday night that teens and young adults sit around wishing for. But I enjoyed the time with them, and I appreciate the gift of time and fun they gave me.
So for those of us that have a difficult time thinking of “what to get” friends or family members for a gift, I would encourage you to consider giving them the gift of time — especially inviting or planning to do something with them that they really enjoy doing but maybe don’t get to do as often as they like — or that you usually don’t do with them. It is the kind of gift that money can’t buy.