Are you still stuck searching the malls or browsing online stores for that gift to give that special friend or family member?
Here’s one idea from a family gift exchange that I participated in a few years ago that is worth considering. One of our beloved elders had lovingly put on her Christmas wish list a request for the gift of time (and company). It seems sweet and adorable but at the same time, it’s a sad sign of the times. When I was a kid growing up in the Philippines, my grandma was always with me everyday of the week and so I had never imagined that one day one of our elders would have to make a request for our time as a gift.
Actually, I won’t be surprised if other people are putting the same request on their Christmas wish list. I have a feeling that more and more people are either putting on their Christmas wish list or offering to others, the gift of their time and company. Apparently, according to some recipients who I’ve talked to, the gift of someone’s time is priceless. It could be as simple as spending time with them at the park, a musical show, or on a road trip. I’ve heard one recipient say that receiving the gift of time from a friend felt like they were receiving someone’s special treasure.
Worth of Time
Benjamin Franklin once wrote that “time is money.” Sadly, that feels even more true today. Society has come a long way to inflate the value of our time with such a high price tag and our time can often feel like one scarce resource. The world of work gauges our worth by our hourly wage and for many of us, we spend many of our awake hours trying to raise up our worth, our careers, and our success. Sadly, we do so at the expense of our relationships and friendships.
Living in a culture that prides itself on being busy, it is easy to get caught up in the flow of things where we are always on the go, perpetually restless, relentlessly in transit from point A to point B, with very little time to spare. So whenever free time finds its way to my calendar, chances are, that free time will end up going to perhaps catching up on email or on sleep, scrolling through social media, binge watching, channel surfing, or doing household chores. As it turns out, I am not alone in choosing these activities. These are the typical go-to activities for many modern-day Americans (just see the Bureau of Labor and Statistics American Time Use Survey for a breakdown of how the average American spends the day). If your weekly schedule looks like mine, it’s also very probable that your social interactions with friends and family are limited and often have to be planned and scheduled. If it’s not on the calendar, it might not happen.
Health experts might be right when they suggest that there is a loneliness epidemic. Our modern day living arrangements have us predisposed to living lonely and isolated lives. When I lived in the big city, my interaction with my neighbors rarely went past the wave of hello. In the last few decades, through technology, work, and modern-living arrangements, we have hardwired loneliness into our lives. As a result, it is now considered the leading threat to our health and well-being.
“When we share time and space with our brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus, then He is there with us.”
Loneliness is now the thing to avoid. It is not good for our health. It’s the leading cause of many health problems like heart attack, stroke, and depression. And it’s not just the older population that is more prone to the dangers of loneliness. In one study, the 18-to-34-year-olds actually expressed greater concern about feeling alone than those in the older age groups. According to this study, young people’s biggest fear is loneliness. I believe it; no matter how much we try to set up our social environments for loneliness, we just are not naturally wired for it. We have a natural need for that sense of connectedness and belongingness.
Be Present and Be the Present
So if a friend or a family member had requested the gift of time or company as one of the gifts to choose from, don’t hesitate to give it, and give it generously. If you’re still trying to find that special gift for that special someone, offer them a voucher for the gift of your time. It is a priceless treasure. You might just find that the benefits of spending time with others are priceless and even mutual. The benefits go both ways, to the receiver and to the giver. When we make ourselves present to other people, we make ourselves a present to them. There is a present in the midst of the generous sharing of our time together—the gift of God’s presence. When we share time and space with our brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus, then He is there with us. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20).
God, in his generosity, has graciously blessed us with time. We are called to also graciously share it with others, with utter generosity. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). If that gift or its form is time, then let’s share it generously. It’s the perfect gift this Christmas because Jesus Christ, who was born this Christmas day, gave us the gift of Himself.
BJ Gonzalvo, Ph.D., is a psychology researcher and workplace consultant. Originally from the Philippines, he now reflects and writes from the beautiful Pacific Northwest on matters of faith, psychology, culture, and work. His writing has appeared in ”Mind & Spirit Magazine” and ”Northwest Catholic.” He’s the author of “Lessons in Leadership from the Saints” and “Lead Like the Saints.”