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Your presence is your present

The people we care about don’t need more things cluttering their lives. They need us to pay attention.

December 30, 2022

4 Min Read
Grandfather playing with kids on farm
PRESENCE: The people we care about don’t need more things — they need us to give them our time and attention. This coming year, consider giving your presence over more presents.Hero Images /Getty images

We have too many things in our lives.

This has been my epiphany in the past year as I work to clear out the clutter of my home and work to help my own family in their downsizing efforts.

Useful things. Sentimental things. Decorative things. Things that have no more usefulness, but the minute you throw them out they’ll become needed. Things that are broken — and despite every intention and every promise, will never be fixed and just need thrown away.

There’s not enough closet, attic, and garage space for all the things. There will never be enough space, either.

And yet, we spend a good amount of our days shopping for, purchasing, and finding new places to store the new things we buy for ourselves and others.

I’m not the first to observe this phenomenon, of course. Anyone who’s helped a loved one sort through a lifetime of memories in preparation to move homes has come to this conclusion. Usually that’s sometime around the third trip to the dump.

So why do we put so much emphasis on having more things in our lives?

Be present

This year I’ve been trying to consciously let go of a lot of things that have no place in my life. It started quite innocently with a goal of finally setting up my home office to a more permanent and useful situation. That simple project quickly morphed into a purge party, with only the most sentimental of items getting a pass to be stored neatly in plastic tubs and tucked up into the attic or in my basement storeroom.

It’s been quite cathartic, let me tell you. In fact, it’s really changed my heart when it comes to gift-giving with my family. Instead of more tchotchkes for shelves and books for Dad’s “reading room,” I started doing more memory-making events.

Taking my nephews and niece to a water park. Taking my older sister to see George Strait on her birthday in Arrowhead Stadium with a group of my girlfriends. A trip to Montana for Thanksgiving, where my very sweet fella plumbed and installed a sink for my mom and dad in their laundry room.

Each one packed with more memories and joy than even the coolest present under the tree.

This year of presence instead of presents really reset my heart.

See, I’m not always the best at making time for phone calls or random visits. I tend to get wrapped up in work or house projects, and time slips by me. Before I know it, it’s been a while since I’ve heard my best friend’s voice or checked in with my parents.

Luckily, my family and friends know that I’m not avoiding them. I’m just absent-minded. But that doesn’t mean I can’t change. This year was proof.

Do better

I bet there’s some of you reading this that are like me. You get wrapped up in the farm or the family activities, and you just don’t make time for the phone calls, or to even go have a cup of coffee with your friends or your relatives down the road. You try to get in to see the folks in the assisted living on Sundays, but with the kids’ activities and church and the farm, there just doesn’t seem to be time. Right?

You know that they just want to hear your voice, and would be content just to sit a spell and talk a while to someone who will really listen. You may not have the answers for your friend who’s heart is breaking, but just sitting with them is an answer itself. 

Even your children and your spouses could do with your full attention every now and then — and not the half-hearted grunt at the end of the table as you shovel in dinner and check the weather on your phone.

We can change. We can do better by the people we love — not with gadgets and things, but by being present in their lives.

In the end, things don’t matter. All the things we’ve collected can’t take the place of one moment of time with the people we love.

So this coming year, as the holidays, birthdays and anniversaries come around, consider making it a point to give your presence.

Because your heart won’t run out of storage for the memories you’ll make.



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