December 14, 2014

Presents and Presence

It’s that time of the year again, isn’t it?  The time when one is likely to give or receive well wishes and holiday greetings. Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Celebrate the Solstice, Joyous Kwanzaa and Happy New Year.  There’s no shortage of reason or season to celebrate.

For most celebrations, gift-giving is often a core component.  It seems we’re continually bombarded with messages to spend our money, pull out the plastic cards and get those never-ending wish lists taken care of.  Is it any wonder our celebratory moods are often buried deep beneath an oppressive cloak of overwhelmed-ness?  I think not.

So, instead of feeling overwhelmed, I suggest we literally stop, breathe and truly think about what we’re doing and why.  There is no question that the giving of gifts can be a very meaningful and joyous experience – for both givers and receivers.  But I believe it might better serve us and those whom we love to consider how much is enough and whether buying is the best way to give.

I don’t know about you, but my sweet husband and I have no need for any purchased gift.  Not a single one. This doesn’t mean we’re wealthy or up to our ears in debt.  It means we realize we’re two of the most fortunate folks on this planet.  We have each other and a love that has bound us for a quarter of a century.  We have our health. We also have family and good friends to love and with whom to share this beautiful life. Plus, we have a warm, sweet little cottage to call home with a kitchen pantry full of nutritious and delicious food. And there’s more - we can turn on the tap to get hot and cold water, and at the flip of a switch, we have light and warmth, day or night.  And we both have jobs that provide us with a sense of purpose and joy.  What buyable present could we need?

So, in terms of gifts, I offer two questions as food for meaningful thought.  What really matters?  Is it our presents or our presence?  When it comes to children, we intuitively know (and research confirms) they aren’t made happier by the number of toys, gadgets and trinkets we buy them.  Instead, what is meaningful to them (and to all of us) is the true presence of others.  Actually being present - talking, laughing, playing games, reading, singing, making something, creating memories.   No TV, laptops or cell phones nearby.

With our ever-mobile society, I do recognize how challenging it is to physically be with those whom we love as much as we would like.  But that does not negate our ability to have our presence there or their presence with us.  Some of my most cherished gifts are the handwritten letters from loved ones, the paper and highly glittered decorations that came from sweet little hands and homemade treats that fill both body and soul.

So if these thoughts speak to your heart’s desire to look at making your celebrations more meaningful and truly richer, then I encourage you to trust your instincts and give them a try.  What do you have to lose?  Maybe the accumulation of more “stuff” and a bank balance that’s not so balanced after all? Both acceptable losses in my book!

Kathleen Ahern
Children's Librarian

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