With Christmas coming, the stress many feel about choosing the right gift, let alone a perfect gift, can be immense. The pressure to spend money that suggests 'the more you spend shows you love someone more' has always been abhorrent to me. With glossy wrapping it is easy to think that is enough. Social media and celebrity give a false and dangerous view that money, and what it buys, is what is important. Money has never bought taste or truth. It is easy to throw money at something, to paper over cracks.
I provide a huge challenge to those who do want to buy me gifts.
If I want something, usually a book, I buy it myself.
I hate asking for things and I dislike intensely having to suggest ‘gifts’ that will make me happy.
I have tried asking for trees to be planted but this somehow doesn’t seem to be the type of gift they want to buy. I do appreciate and am thankful for the majority of gifts I am given, as I recognise someone has spent time and money on them. Just don’t mention diamond earrings!
I am a natural giver, but I am not a natural receiver.
I feel awkward when given any gift. Why would someone spend money on me? They don’t need to do so to show they care. Earlier this year, I read one of the best books that summed up for me how I felt and why this was such a challenge. The Go-Giver by Bob Burg.
Giving and receiving are like breathing in and out. If you keep breathing out (giving), without breathing in (receiving) you will eventually collapse or worse. By always giving, you end up resenting and this was the kicker, even when you yourself choose to keep giving.
It is a cyclical process of give and take. By refusing to accept someone giving you a gift or doing it without grace (been guilty of that), you are blocking them from their need to give.
For me, I need to learn to accept and let other people give to me. And breathe. Huge shift in mindset.
Ok, is there a gift that I do accept readily and unconditionally? Is there a gift I feel truly blessed to receive?
Yes there is!
But let me tell a little painful story.
A long time ago, in a kingdom far far away, I loved someone. He owned his own business and worked very long hours. Negotiating to have some time with him was hard. Is this already making your eyebrows lift?
I calculated one day that given the hours he worked and the money he earned, he was paying himself less than half the minimum wage.
One Friday evening, after another long week, I gave him £50. He was very surprised. I asked him for 10 hours of his time.
Did I get it? I’ll let you answer that...
For me the gift of time is priceless. Time is something that you can never get back.
It is a complete honour for me when someone suggests they want to spend time with me. And I am truly truly thankful. It may be a walk, or a coffee or a visit to the beach. It may be a fabulous dinner or an hour on Zoom. It is not ever about money.
When I am buying someone a gift, because yes that is important too, I do have the thought of whether I am prepared to provide the same amount of time (I use the living wage as my bench mark). As you would expect, this has led to some uncomfortable moments for me, when I have realised that no, I’m not.
Coming up to what is likely to be the strangest Christmas in memory for all of us, I make the suggestion that maybe the gift of time is the most precious gift of all. It doesn’t come wrapped in a beautiful package, but it sure does beat another Amazon voucher.
Time to be in the present with the person doing something together, that is the perfect gift that I want to both give and will be very happy to receive.
Can you give (and receive) a gift of time?
What a great question. Do we value our time, and the time given to us, as much as the cost of an expensive gift...?
Life, like everything in nature, needs to ebb and flow with a cyclical rhythm. Being able to receive as well as give is so important. We have seen plenty of amazing examples of people giving, and supporting others, in their communities during the pandemic. I wonder how many are able to gracefully and gratefully receive in return?
Definitely something to think about...
With love, Lynda
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