One of the best gifts I have ever given to someone else was the gift of my time. Since January 2013, I’ve spent one night a month cooking with my youngest brother. Together we’ve made carrot cake, meatloaf, lasagna, stuffed mushrooms, barbecue ribs, stuffed shells, and many more delights. While we cook, we talk. Sometimes we take walks while our newest creation bakes in the oven. After dinner, we’ll watch movies, and sometimes he sleeps over, playing video games late into the night. While he enjoys the cookbook I gave to him and the delicious meals that result from the recipes, what matters most to him is that I am spending time with him. It is a gift he has thanked me for countless times.
One of the best gifts I have ever received was given to me on my 30th birthday. My husband presented me with a scrapbook filled with pictures of my life thus far. There were pictures of me as a child, pictures of me with my family, pictures of me with our animals, pictures of me with our former foster children, and, of course, pictures of me with him. Then, about halfway through the scrapbook, there was a letter from him to me followed by letters to me from many friends and family members. It was the Inception of gifts. Layer One: The beautifully-arranged scrapbook. Layer Two: The encouraging, loving notes by people who matter to me telling me I matter to them. Layer Three: The time people set aside in the midst of their own busyness to write such thoughtful messages. Layer Four: The time spent by my husband sending out a call for letters, scanning and printing pictures, thoughtfully arranging each page, and writing his own love letter to me. More than the pictures, more than the letters, what I value most about this gift is that it represents the time other people were willing to spend on making me feel loved.
In a society where the lack of time and the surplus of demands for that time are twin burdens that we bemoan constantly, the gift of time is probably the most meaningful gift one person can give to another. Time is a precious resource, which makes it all the more meaningful when someone chooses to spend their time on you. Time is a gift that transcends ages and stages of life. Much like the jelly of the month club, it is the gift that keeps giving the whole year through. In a consumer-based society, it is easy to dismiss our time as a lesser gift and succumb to the messages that what people really want are things. But I would wager that what most people really want is to know they are important to the people they love, and there is no better way to show someone that than by spending your time on them.