I SAY…Offer Presence Not Presents

marcia-mainBy Marcia Kent
Published: Oct 21, 2015
As my twins just turned 6 this September I find myself reflecting upon the
concept of “Giving the Gift of Time” instead of gifts. I especially notice the importance
of this when we live in a town without any extended family around. The older I get, the
more I wish for memories and moments over material objects when it comes to gift
giving. Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely when someone brings you a gift, especially
something homemade, but what if we went back to a simpler concept of just giving time
together? That could simply be a phone call instead of a text message. Time in itself, is
our most precious commodity.
Over the last few years, my husband and I made a promise to not invest in buying
cards for each other anymore. Alternatively, we write poems or letters to each other, it’s
more personal and means someone took the time to think of you instead of purchasing an
over-priced cheesy card. We replaced Mothers Day/Fathers Day cards being bought with
journals so that our kids can write to us each year and later on, we can have a very special
keepsake. To me, it is infinitely more rewarding spending time with loved ones rather
than running through shopping malls and markets.
Remembering back to my birthday parties as a kid in the 80’s and 90’s, I can’t
recall most of the gifts that were given to me; however, I do recall memories such as my
mom taking the time to cut out construction paper bat wings to stick on juice boxes for
my Halloween party, or watching her decorate homemade cakes instead of store bought
or custom ordered. Often people poke fun at me for going overboard at events, holidays
or my twin’s birthday parties. They say, “I don’t know how you have the time, I
certainly don’t.” My response is, “You will always make time for things you love or that
are important to you.” Let’s be honest, I LOVE planning parties or being creative when I
can but I’m learning that the gifts that children will never forget aren’t actually “gifts.”
They are memories, experiences, and lessons. Family members from near and far away,
pick up the phone and give them a call or take them out for a special day together next
time we are together! Acknowledge and listen intently to the “little things” like
congratulating them on their first tooth lost, remembering to ask how their first day of
school went, or how is hockey going? The gifts that you give them will mean nothing if
they don’t even have a relationship or know the family member giving the gift. What
gifts will truly impact our children’s lives and change them forever?
Give without expectation; however, remember to invest your “gift of time” with
those who truly appreciate your efforts. It has taken me many years to realize who is
worthy of my time. Being a nurse, it’s in my nature to want to give and help; however,
I’m gradually learning to spend my time wisely where it counts best. Sometimes going a
step beyond giving to someone you know is giving to someone you don’t know. If your
one of those holiday obsessed freaks like me who start thinking about Christmas the
moment September hits, why not consider the “gift of time” this year as the holidays
approach? Start new family traditions, help at a soup-kitchen, walk dogs for your local
animal shelter, mentor the youth, run errands for the elderly, or support your local food
bank. Let your children be a part of this process; let them learn from your example. In
return, if someone gives to you, remember good old-fashioned etiquette. Write letters of
thanks and post in the mail, there is nothing sweeter than a hand-written letter, especially
from a child.
Lastly, (and this piece of advice I really need to learn myself), don’t forget about
yourself! I know it seems counterintuitive but give to you! Learn to say “no”, set
boundaries, take time for your wellbeing and realize you are as worthy as the people you
give your time to


  1. Susan Frost says:

    Your letter brought tears to my eyes. You are so right on all accounts!

    Your Auntie on the Island