By the time most of you read this you will already be well into your Christmas shopping. Even so, it’s a thought to share.
Those of us who are parents will have indulged ourselves with buying insurmountable mountains of molded plastics, cheap metal and cardboard all in the name of love for our children. Certainly, the thought and intentions are noble and our kids will think for an hour or so that we really do care about and love them.
But barely before our credit cards have stopped sizzling and steaming from seasonal overuse, our little darlings will have consulted with their friends only to find out that our peace offerings are little more than a piddly drop in the proverbial bucket and somebody else’s parents must love their kids more than we love ours.
That judgment will be based on the fact that their friends received a deluxe model pea shooter instead of the stripped down version we tried to pass off.
What else should we expect them to think?
After all, we have encouraged them to think that our love and care are based on the volume of stuff we can give them to stack in their rooms. The quantity of stuff is such that it is necessary to clean out the old from time to time just to make room for the new.
Former auto executive Lee Iacocca, who has had some pretty big jobs, says the most important job he’s ever had was “as a dad.” He elaborates to say “if I failed at that job, I’d consider myself a failure.” That may be an unduly harsh assessment for any man to make, but the point is crystal clear.
The most important gift any of us can give our kids, or anyone else we care to give to, is our time. It’s something that is in limited supply and something we all have an equal amount of each day, rich and not so rich alike. It’s an equally affordable gift.
Time has other beauties as well. It doesn’t require credit card installment payments or a Christmas Club account at the bank. We can give it each and every day almost without exception and is limited only by our willingness to give it. It is the ideal last minute gift because often the more spontaneously we give it the more significant it becomes. By giving it your never really lose it. In fact giving it is the single best way to preserve it.
By sharing it you can watch as the cumulative results manifest themselves days, months and years later. By not sharing it, time passes swiftly and permanently away in sometimes not so pleasant memories.
Yes, the kids will enjoy the trinkets for which we have saved all year or will pay for all next year. In a flash, however, they will be back asking for something more significant and more permanent. Seldom will they ever directly ask for it but if you listen carefully you will hear that all they may really be wanting is “ a minute of your time.”
So as you experience the depression and anti climax of cleaning up the mess created by the wrapping paper, pine needles and candy canes sticking to the sofa remember you have an untapped reservoir from which you can give all year long.
Normal kids require constant reassurance that you care for and love them. Sharing your time with them going to their ball games, class plays and science fairs may seem like an intolerable penance at the time but will be remembered long after the deluxe model pea shooter has been relegated to the scrap heap.
Perhaps the best way to put in perspective the value of time and its value as a gift is to recall the most memorable moments and events of your life when somebody shared their time with you and the joy that resulted… or failed to and the hurt that was created.
Remember the time…
John Kliebenstein is circulation and operations manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Tuesdays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.