Day 120: “The Gift of Time”

In an effort to avoid a repeat of my recent writer’s block, I’m going to change the weekly format of the blog ever so slightly going forward. Instead of writing two “Ramblings and Ruminations” a week (on Mondays and Fridays), I’m going to try cutting back to one – usually on Mondays – and leave the other day open for whatever catches my eye (or my heart) that day.

The past five days – from Thanksgiving to today – have been an extended weekend defined by commercialism, from Black Friday preview events to Black Friday itself to Small Business Saturday to Cyber Monday – collectively accounting for billions and billions of dollars in consumer spending for the holidays (and, unfortunately, more negative news stories and viral videos documenting the darker side of human nature than I care to consider).

It’s easy to get caught up in the mania and begin asking ourselves the types of questions that we never really need to ask.

“How much money should I spend on this person?”

“Do I really need to buy him/her anything?”

“How much money do I need to spend on this person?”

“Will I look like I don’t care if I don’t spend more than that?”

Don’t get me wrong: gift giving is a holiday tradition (and one that I truly enjoy), but I think we often worry too much about the gift and too little about the meaning behind it, because regardless of whether our personal holiday traditions are sacred or secular, giving someone a gift at the holidays should always be a way of letting them know that we love them and that they matter to us.

The older I get, the more I believe that time is the greatest gift – and the more I value the memories of the times I’ve spent with people I love and of the times they’ve given their time to me…

When two of my friends surprised me by driving three hours (each way) to see my thesis show – and then went out to dinner with me – when I was in my last semester of grad school.

When one of my friends gave me a photo snowglobe that she made with a photograph of her, a mutual friend of ours, and me that she’d taken a few months earlier. (It wasn’t an expensive gift, but every time I see it, I think of both of them and the afternoon we spent together when she took the photograph.)

When one of my friends met me for lunch while I was out of town working on a play – or, a couple months later, when he bought me a couple of drinks when we were out of town together for a meeting – and I got to spend an hour talking to him, one on one.

When one of my friends, who works as a storyteller, e-mailed me photographs he’d taken – in two different towns – of some signs and flyers he’d seen for the touring production of The Merchant of Venice that I dramaturged earlier this fall – the first time I ever did that type of work for a professional company.

All of these memories have something in common: someone important to me took the time to make – or sometimes even let – me feel like I was important to them, and that’s an indescribable gift.

I was looking through a folder of photographs – almost all of me and someone else – on my computer the other day. I keep them all together in that folder because they’re basically the only photos of myself that I actually like.  It isn’t that I look that much different in them than I do in the other pictures I have of myself, with only me in them. It’s that I remember the other people in the photos and the time we spent together.

I know this post has meandered a bit, so I’m going to do my best to bring it to a close with one last thought: this year, when you think about the people that you love, don’t ask yourself how much you can – or should – or need – to spend on them; ask yourself how much time you can spend with them.

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