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The Gift of Time
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By Trish West

I often hear "I'm just not in the Christmas spirit this year" or "Guess I really should get Christmas cards sent out." Only we run out of time and Facebook posts are sent in place of handmade cards with an updated photo of the kids sitting by the tree. It seems any Christmas cards that do arrive in the mail - are from the insurance company, dentist and local pizza place with a coupon for your next order.

Rare is the excitement found while planning and finding the "perfect" gift. Having it wrapped, patiently waiting to see their reaction when they open it, exclaiming “how did you know?” or "It's what I've always wanted!" Shopping for Christmas is now done while sitting on the couch, surfing online and the abundance of gift cards available for 'easy gift giving' is overwhelming. It's safer to give a 'buy what you like yourself' gift because they probably already have it or will likely return it to the store during boxing week. . Some will venture out in the quiet streets Christmas morning to go out of their way to find a Timmies or local Shoppers that's open. Not needing to buy anything but uneasy because stores are all closed. Maybe it is feel connected with the world or maybe just grateful to find something that still ‘accessible’ Christmas day... looking, searching for something but unsure what they're missing.

I try to imagine of the excitement of the three kings who brought gifts to baby Jesus on his birth, excited to give something that was thought out and meant a great deal to them. I think back to my youth, when we didn’t have the means to provide grand gifts and time was taken to find the perfect gift, knowing it probably would be the only one. Sometimes that meant making something yourself, spending time creating a gift that you knew someone could use or enjoy. Christmas wasn’t always about writing a letter to Santa, hoping we get what is on our list… but what we can also do to give to others, bring a smile to their face. My youngest son used to spend hours up in his room, wrapping his own toys to give to friends in kindergarten. All four of my kids looked forward to making a trip to the dollar store so they can fill Christmas shoeboxes, excited thinking about the child who will cherish each item they picked out. Last year I had the best time ever while handing out several Tim Horton cards to anyone we passed on the street that looked as though they could use a warm cup of coffee.

The spirit is not only in the giving… but also in the time and effort we take to do so personally. This is what I imagine is missing when looking for that "Christmas spirit."

I am reminded of the three Wiseman who traveled a great distance to personally give their gifts and gathered together to celebrate Jesus's birth. Christmas in the past, is often remembered as long road trips to visit family and friends during the holiday'; spending time together while playing board games, sing carols and feast on homemade cookies. Now instead of traveling, we stay in the comforts of our own home, tired of the last minute shopping traffic. No one needs to go anywhere to wish friends or family a Merry Christmas… just send a holiday greeting by text, Skype or Facebook. Christmas morning wrapped up by the time the gifts are unwrapped. Everyone disappears into separate corners 'plugged in' to their electronics and dragging them away to go to church or family dinner is no easy task. The world is at our fingertips but the personal interaction with others is missing.

Time and those around us are one of the greatest gifts we are given and often is taken for granted: "Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present." With all the "time saving" options we have when it comes to Christmas cards, gift shopping and communicating... imagine how we could instead use that extra time saved. Imagine if we turned off the screens that separate us, to take the time that allows us to come together in person and share 'Christmas spirit'... giving a gift that is simply of 'ourselves'.