The Gift of Time

This post (and this trip) is made possible in part by the generosity of our book sponsors.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned and relearned during almost six months on the road, it’s this: the place and the things and even the food are secondary to the people.

The people with whom you spend the day are what determine how satisfied you feel when it is over. And not just the existance of the people, but the time you get to spend with them.

While in Memphis last month, I read The Wonders Inside: The Earth to my daughter and Faiqa’s. It’s a children’s book from Silver Dolphin Books (one of our trip sponsors) about volcanoes and mountains and other geological stuff. The girls sat with me for almost an hour on the couch, pointing and asking questions and generally finding excuses to keep the reading time going.

The next night they asked to read 3D Explorer: Planet Earth, another book about volcanoes and mountains geological stuff.

These books are great, yes. They make geological stuff interesting for little minds with cool pictures and pop-up pages. But the truth is that it’s not the content or the pictures that make the books so special.

It’s the time.

The girls were delighted to have time with an adult, something they never seem to grow tired of. (Ever. Seriously. EVER.) Every night when Emma asks for a bedtime story, one she wants read to her despite the fact that she can read most things on her own now, it’s because of the connection that comes from sharing something.

We get it when we’re kids. We seem to forget so easily as adults.

Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t about turkeys or trinkets. No holiday is really about the traditions or gifts that might come with it. They’re about time. The rituals are merely an excuse, a means to connect, whether with God or with people or maybe with ourselves. They are a reminder to take the time.

This year, I’m going to make a concious effort to give gifts of time.

I’m already thinking books for kids (because of my previously mentioned experience) and babysitting nights for parents of young kids. We’re also going back to Iowa for three weeks over the holidays, a big fat gift of time in itself.

How else can we give the gift of time this year?

(That’s not a rehtorical question. I need ideas!)

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  1. Hello from Paris, France ! Thanks for your story. I opened your blog for the first time today and love it; Yes, you are right, we must give time. My idea : Give some time to strangers. When I arrived in France from Chile, I was totally lost (I am a travel writer living in Paris now). All the people I met had their families, their friends, and no time for a stranger like me. I felt terribly lonely. So I think we must remember to give time to strangers and people we don't know. Time for a smile, a "hello", a chat… Time for contact xxx Happy Thanksgiving from Paris !Francisca Matt

  2. Megan says:

    I love the "time for strangers" idea. Help someone who's lost. Make suggestions to someone who's confused. Help someone carry a heavy or unwieldy package. Really sweet idea.

  3. i'm gifting time to folks this weekend. a few relatives are a little older than they once were and dragging christmas tree boxes and decorations from attics or basements is more difficult than it used to be so i'll be hanging out and playing pack mule. pretty easy to follow directions and put long loved ornaments and trinkets where i've seen them reside christmas after christmas. this year someone who knows i help others even asked me to help her with her decorating even though she is absolutely capable of doing it herself…she just wants time with another. (plus i am kinda selfish…gives me quality alone time with people dear to me. and usually they feed me, too. nothing like breaking bread with individuals.)so may i suggest volunteering at a food bank or homeless shelter for one of your gifts of time? for those that you love, perhaps assisting them (and those you meet along your journey) with a chore (decorating, yard work, cleaning, grocery shopping, dishes, etc.)? then again, i love giving the gift of my time in addition to an experience (theater ticket or cooking class or glass class or pottery painting, etc.). makes me happy to have that shared experience to talk about for years to come.

  4. Nanna says:

    One of ,y favorite things about the holidays is the time I spend with the women who are there bumping into each other in the kitchen making the meal. One is peeling potatoes, another is making plates for the littlest ones. Another is putting the bake and serve rolls in the oven (or remembering to take them out!!! GAH!) I love that women-binding time.

  5. Dawn says:

    Here a couple more ways that you can give the gift of time:1. I heard about this once in a magazine article and thought it was fabulous. When a baby is born prematurely and has to be kept in the hospital, it's impossible for the baby's parents to be there 24/7. And nurses, God bless them, are stretched to their limits already. So there was a program where people volunteer to hold the babies, so that the baby would always know love and touch, even when the parents aren't there. This seems totally up your alley.2. This is one that I absolutely cannot do because I'd cry on my way there, I wouldn't even be able to walk in, and if I *could* walk in, I'd leave with every single on of the dogs. Volunteer at a pet shelter. Just taking one of the dogs for a walk and giving them some one-on-one attention is GREAT for the dog, not to mention that it helps to socialize them for their new family.

  6. Dawn says:

    Wow! Lots of typos in my comment. Here ARE a couple……every single ONE of the dogs…And there are probably more but I won't even bother looking, for fear I die of embarrassment. Y'know, as an EDITOR and all!I'd blame it on the new laptop but that's just silly. I'm blaming it on being awake since 4.00am. I really need a nap. Badly.

  7. daniel says:

    Give "experiences" as well – concert tickets along with a coupon for babysitting, My kids LOVE going to a ball game alone with me. I don't know if Jared is a sports fan, but buying your kids two tickets to a sporting event and having that be something they get to do with dad (or you, whatever) alone, without the sibling might be good.

  8. Audra says:

    Britt, this post is wonderful! The importance of time is what I've realized in my own experiment (no bought toys since 8/25/2010). My daughters love to sit and sew with me. Since I've vowed that I can only make them gifts this Christmas, I'm going to make some kits for them that we can work on together. I'm making my 5 year old a collage kit, and I want to make each of my girls (5 and 3) sewing kits. Both know how to sew and love to make their own stuffed animals. My 3 year old needs a lot of supervision, but she loves to cuddle on my lap as I help her with her stitches. My mother is 69 years old and has too much stuff already. When I asked her what she wanted for Christmas she said she wanted to "do something" with me. She works part-time and babysits my girls while I'm at work. Although she sees a lot of my children, she rarely gets to spend quality time with me. My girls are 5 and 3 and in their presence, its difficult to finish a sentence without an interruption. So, I'm planning some little dates that we can go on together. We're going to get pedis, go out to lunch and make jewelry at a local bead store.

  9. naomi says:

    Time gifts :Board gamesPuzzles Dates with each of your childrenSewing projects (even for your not-so-little guy) Photo Projects (scavenger hunts, making photo books with the kids, etc.)Volunteering – yes!!Love that the girls had henna'd feet!

  10. Barb says:

    Definitely reading to children is giving them the gift of time! And I also like the henna on the feet!

  11. Lisa says:

    I love this post. It really caused me stop and think about my responses to my daughter. How the best gift I can give her is a story before bed, even when I'm tired and just want to relax. A cuddle in the morning, before we start the hustle and bustle of the day.Thank you for giving me a way to be better.

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