Time; our most precious gift
If you could have anything for Christmas, no matter how impossible, abstract or fantastical, what would it be? Might it be one more day with a loved one no longer here? What if you could be gifted the vitality of a former self? Or bestowed another guaranteed ten years of good health? As we move through life, we realise there is nothing more precious than time.
Living through Covid and the ensuing lockdowns has shaped our perception and perspective of time. When opportunities for social interaction with the wider world were unavailable, weeks seemed like months and one long day blended into the next. Concurrently, we became painfully aware many others had their time cut abruptly short. It marked a moment when many began to think both philosophically and practically about time.
Some, working from home began to calculate the cost of hours spent on the daily commute and what else might be done with that time. Others questioned the sheer amount of time work absorbed, or how fulfilling or worthwhile it was. Many emerged with new ideas on how to achieve an improved a work home balance.
So, with Christmas upon us, how might we give precious time? A piece in the New York Times summed it up perfectly and urged us to give ‘presence not presents’ – My Time, the Most Precious Gift of All. No advertising agency will be fighting over time as client because it’s something given freely. The adverts that tug at heartstrings so persuasively have us believe it’s stuff that hold us together at Christmas: food, decorations and of course, presents.
American cartoonist, Bill Keane got it right when he said: ‘Yesterday’s past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.’ For some, giving time means volunteering and those selfless individuals who help out over the festive period with the less fortunate are inspirational. Taking time to make gifts is another way to let people know that they’re special enough to receive your time. I really value the wry, home-made cards I receive from a few friends every year and the tin of buttery home-made biscuits from a German friend. Last year, I also went this route and found lots of ideas in Handmade Gifts from the Kitchen (Alison Walker, Jacqui Small Publishing) including Florentines and Tiffins. This year, I’ll be attempting truffles.
We’re told giving feels good and anything’s worth a smile on the face of a loved one. Gifts are material proof of our commitment as grandparents, sensitivity as partners and unconditional love as parents. On the whole the multi-million pound Christmas campaigns succeed at pressing our buttons of self-worth and the desire to belong. But the important thing isn’t bath salts or socks; it’s the time together. Long after the bath salts have dissolved and the socks have disintegrated, all we will have is memories.