Presence Over Presents


Presence Over Presents

Recently in a meeting at work, I received this icebreaker question: “What was the best Christmas gift you have ever received and what was the worst gift you have ever received?” I completely drew a blank for the latter part of the question and I struggled to find an answer for the first part too. The most memorable Christmas gift I received was when my sister and I got a two-seater Go-Kart. We put who-knows-how-many-miles on it over the Christmas break!

Was it the best Christmas gift per say? Meh, probably not.

I think about one year, as I sat in our living room doing my homework, one present under the tree was calling my name. It was the only time I ever secretly tried to open a present early. I kept looking over my shoulder as I peeped down into the box. I’ll never forget discovering the charcoal gray sweater I had asked for — I was so excited. Even though I attempted to wrap it back up, I was caught. Then there was the time I received my first CD player and a few CDs. Which is also memorable as I still have them. While all those things are great, perhaps I am in the minority here with my thought process, but those things I just mentioned are just that — things, materialistic items that come and go.

Year after year, every Christmas morning, my sister and I woke up before the sunrise, just so excited. We would rush to my parents’ room to wake them. My dad would get out the old camcorder (the big bulky kind that sat on his shoulder) to start recording the morning. My mom would put on a pot of coffee. My sister and I would each start taking turns opening and handing out gifts. As we were growing up, though we were excited about opening presents, we still oftentimes could not recall what we had received just the year before.

As an adult, when I think about my childhood Christmases, although presents were a big part of Christmas morning, looking back, the gifts I unwrapped were forgettable. It’s not gifts I think about. The time spent with family is what comes to mind. I think about the Christmas gatherings we used to have with extended family. The countless laughs we shared were unforgettable.

As cliché as it sounds, Charlie Brown said it best, “It’s not what was under the tree that matters, it’s who’s around it.” The early morning run into my parents’ room on Christmas morning, the excitement of spending the day together, the music, the movies, the baking — it’s these things that were the best parts. Now that my dad has passed, those old VHS tapes are more priceless than any of the gifts I excitedly opened as a child.

We are trying to offer more experiences rather than materialist items for our children this year, but the truth is, just being present is enough. Family time is priceless and the years are too short not to be present. Now that I have had a few days to think about it, the best Christmas gift I have ever received is time with friends and family and the everlasting memories, and the worst Christmas gift is when family and friends are no longer present.

I would like to encourage you to intentionally slow down during this busy part of the year. Take time to listen to all the Christmas music, watch all the movies, do all the baking and make all the memories with your loved ones.

Merry Christmas, from my family to yours!