Recently, someone told my wife and I they could not join us because they had committed to be with their grandchildren. My response to them was that “our presence in a child’s life is much, much more important than our presents”. That we fully understood and that they were doing the right thing.
While I was proud to write this sentence it occurred to me later how close these two words are when you pronounce them. This made me begin to wonder how did the word present become another word for gift? (I really don’t know!)
We bring presents (gifts) when someone is celebrating a special occasion. It almost seems like a marker that is used to take attendance. When our gift arrives others know that we are there for “the” occasion. Our gift “announces” that we are present. (Could this be why a gift is called a present?)
Our understanding degrades when we put all of our faith into the act of giving a gift to proclaim our presence in another person’s life. We think it has value because we remembered and we are there. It sometimes is a bother to shop for a gift and wrap it but in the end we feel it is worth it because we insist that it shows we care.
I find this amusing because over the many years we focus on presents (either what I received or what I will give) rather than focusing on our “presence” in another person’s life. This is especially true of new parents with respect to their children. They tend to buy them things to occupy them but don’t take the time to sit, play and be with them as much because it takes too much time.
Older children (and grandchildren) are no different. Going to their soccer game (acknowledging them by our presence) is a big thing that they will not forget. It may have been difficult for any of us to take that much time out of our day to be there, but make no mistake about it, it is 100 times more valuable than a gift or giving them presents.
How guilty I am that sometimes I don’t give enough to my bride because I am so busy at work and the many responsibilities I have. The simple fact is that our presence in our most important relationships is the water that makes them grow, that makes them remain strong and that makes them full of life, laughter and love.
Without our presence no relationships can ever flourish. Without our presence we can never get meaningfully close to others. Without our presence, it is difficult for us to grow and evolve as a person, regardless of our status, regardless of our wealth or lack of it.
Presence is much harder to see but much easier to feel (it’s ironic that presents are much easier to see and their effect or feelings toward them go away quickly). Presence is harder to describe to another but is a key building block in building meaningful relationships. We develop consistency, trust, and a feeling of safety when sharing with others who we truly are through our presence. We declare our interest to another person through our presence.
Make today special for someone else by giving them your presence. The warmth and smiles you will begin to see make the bows and colors of the wrapping paper you left in the corner seem dull, muted, and unimportant.
And you just might learn a thing or two from another person when they share their presence with you too!