Give Presence, Not Presents

Money is hard to come by. You might have lost your job or never had one. You could have been downsized or cut back. I used to have 30 paying customers in a Zumba class. Now I'm lucky if I get 10. The stock market is an ugly place these days. Money evaporates like water in the Sahara.

But there is something much more precious than money. Something we can give to our loved ones. Something meaningful. Something they will remember for years, maybe for a lifetime.

Time. Time together. Quality time.

This holiday season, consider giving the gift of your time. And your attention.

There is no gift more powerful than the gift of your attention. Your children, your parents, your friends and neighbors, your dogs, everyone craves attention. And the gift of real, focused attention is rare.

I am just as guilty as the next guy (probably more so) of being terrible at this. I am the quintessential half-assed listener. In truth, not even half my ass is listening most of the time. Words, in the form of sound waves, move through the air from someone's lips; they enter my ear and travel straight through my brain without ever making contact. The words leave out of my opposite ear and I have heard NOTHING. One big fat zilch. (I learned this trick from my mother. She will often nod as you speak, with a dreamy look on her face, and you know she is receiving zero information about your very exciting story.)

So this holiday season, I plan to change all that.

I will give the gift of my complete attention. When someone I love speaks to me, I will stop typing on my keyboard (texting someone else, scrolling through Facebook, reading my email) and look them in the eyes. I will turn off the TV or the CD or the DVD. I will unclog my ears and allow their words to penetrate my thick skull. I will not judge the words. I will learn something new from the speaker simply by listening. I will be present.

Maybe you would care to join me in my holiday plans? It will cost you nothing to give your undivided attention. But your loved ones will notice the difference. I'd put money on that.