Valuable Gifts

The generosity of your time is the most valuable gift you can give – Sara Henderson

Sara is saying that your time is the most valuable thing you can give (to another person I assume). None of us know how much time we actually have on this planet or in this life, depending on your beliefs so when we ‘give’ our time to someone else we don’t know whether we are giving the last few moments of our lives or but a few moments out of a hundred years. Is one more valuable than the other though? We usually assume it is but one of many moments to come.

I have read before that when you are late for an appointment, you are assuming that your time is more valuable than the person’s who is left waiting. Of course it could be that you are congenitally unable to get your act together and make no such assumption, and the outcomes you get from being late are something you can cope with because you haven’t changed. Whether the other person feels angry is their business. I have been on both ends and definitely see both sides of that one. The ‘waiter‘ may not be at all bothered – he might have relished the time to call a loved one or check his email for example. And the latecomer is ruining the quality of that time they should have been together by maybe stressing and rushing to get there. I don’t believe there are many people who want to be late to make some point. I suppose if you are always late your friends can either abandon you or make allowances in various ways – lie about the meeting time, bring things they want to do while they wait or choose to meet at their house where it makes less difference what time you arrive. My point is that in this case you are ‘stealing’ someone else’s time making them wait but whether it matters to them is their choice. Best to always be prepared though if you find waiting unbearable.

What makes time valuable? Is a retiree’s time less valuable than a consultant being billed by the minute? If your grandmother gives you this valuable gift of time to have coffee or something, do you value it less than the time your executive husband spends with you?

I like this quote but there are many holes in it I think. What Sara is probably trying to say is that the gift of your attention is the most valuable gift you can give. I could spend time in the same room with the kids and actually be off with the fairies, writing my blog or something, unable to even hear them speaking to me. (I can record the words in my head though and play them back in order to answer a few moments later). Or I could be spending quality time, looking at them, listening and assimilating what they have to tell me and creating a connection, one of a million tiny bonds that define and seal your relationship. I guess that’s why we have to define time as ‘quality’. What kind of time do you give people?

Time itself has no value, in fact there are theories that all time happens at once and our future affects our past and our present. A little too much to get my head around but I don’t discount it. Something to ponder on. The way I seem to measure time, is the changes in people. From the minute you get pregnant with your first child, time starts passing noticeably, because you see the changes caused over time. You grow then they come out and they grow, or you watch your parents age or your own body changing. Why don’t we judge the passing of time by how much our garden has grown or how much our home is falling into disrepair or everything else that is subject to growth and decay? Eckhart Tolle talks about time a lot. One image he gave, which I often think about in order to put things in perspective is that if you imagined the next 100,000 years sped up into one minute like a time lapse movie you would see everything on this planet crumble before your very eyes. First the natural growing things like people and nature, wood etc Everything would be reduced to dust. Does that mean that all the objects that we currently value are not inherently valuable (my thinking now)? It puts things into perspective, for example when we are disappointed if we break a vase or something. Not important. Only the story we hold of that vase in our minds is important. As our bodies decay, our thoughts are the one thing that don’t have to decay. In fact as we build up positive beliefs and healthy thinking, as our body ages, our minds will hopefully mature, grow and flourish.

Anyway I am completely digressing. I knew this one would be difficult. Back to Time or your Attention being the most valuable gift. Some people may value your time and others will not. I would say that children value your time and attention the most. It can take effort sometimes to play some boring child’s game for the 100th time unless you look at it differently. Instead of predicting the outcome of the tedious game, watch instead for the look on your children’s faces as they play and get excited. Mix it up. Hug them every time they throw their hands up in glee for example or kiss them if they do something else predictable. Change the game and your response each time. Maybe it’s you that’ s boring, not the game. My kids are no longer small so I can’t go back and do things better, now that I have better perspective but that’s where hopefully grandchildren come in! My grandmother was amazing with her 17 grandchildren and endlessly patient and enthusiastic. Was her time valuable? Yes it absolutely was. The most valuable time anyone could give me back then. And she always gave freely. We can’t assume retirees want to give us time just because they might have a lot of it. Their time is valuable to them. We might bore them to pieces or treat them as ‘old’ or irritate them. The busy executive may seem to be generous giving his minimal time to us, but in fact he could actually be making a choice and a deal with the devil to be working that amount of hours. He will defend himself – if I don’t put in the hours we won’t have this s lifestyle etc. But in fact the busy worker may just be perfectionist and not have to spend quite so many hours working if they value our time also. The worker could be spending his valuable time (always substitute attention for time here) trying to get ahead in order to earn more than you need or want, through some internal messages of his own. You value his time, he values something else.

It’s a bit like when we say we can’t afford something. Often it’s not true of course. I could choose to buy a gold necklace and live on toast instead of eating properly this month. But we don’t value that object (or spending time on someone) so we choose not to.

It’s a shame that I keep seeing exceptions to this quote. Imagine you give your time to someone but you are there under sufferance? You talk to them about their marriage difficulties for the 100th time or help with backbreaking home renovations or visit your cranky grandmother or whatever. This time you give could be quite the opposite of valuable if it’s written all over your face that you would rather be somewhere else. Even the person being helped with the renovations would probably rather you hadn’t come, even if their place looks better. They will be left feeling uncomfortable.

So what have I learned from this? That the most valuable thing you can give is not your time as such, but your attention. By attention I also mean give your love, like, respect, appreciation etc. And that love is not just love for them; it is love for yourself. If you feel down on yourself and take it extreme, you become a hermit and give your time to no one. You may think you hate people but in reality you are probably not too fond of yourself and don’t trust yourself to interact. You are afraid of the reactions you will get (I can get like that from time to time). However if you are in a healthy mindset, going about your business, this love and appreciation will manifest by wanting to spend the most time with other people in order to give them your attention, and that is what is valuable, for all concerned, you included.


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