At our annual Christmas celebration, it’s customary for the Zimanske cousins to open up a few gifts together from our grandparents. The boxes or bags are usually wrapped similarly, and this year, the seven of us unwrapped the same restaurant gift card.
“Just make sure you all use them together,” Grandma instructed.
Seven months later, my six cousins plus several significant others and myself were seated around an oversized dining room table at the local Olive Garden. As we passed warm breadsticks and salad around the table, we joked how our get-together mimicked a recent commercial featuring a group of cousins who chose to dine at the same place.
Although we all live within a 45-mile radius, the times that we do spend together outside of the standard holiday events are few and far between. We no longer have to depend on the aunts and uncles for transportation or for cash to cover our meal, but we’re all busy – some are still in college, while others have been in the working world for some time. We all have overflowing schedules, which became even more apparent when trying to coordinate a date and time for our cousin dinner.
But we did find a date, and as the 12 of us gathered over pasta and wine, I came to understand why Grandma had decided to give us each the same gift card. Often thought of as impersonal, this gift card represented the gift of time. Time with those you love. Time with family.
As adults, we no longer can depend on parents or other role models to cultivate life-giving relationships for us. Instead, it’s up to each of us to invest our time into the relationships we want to keep strong. The same applies in the dating world – the days of high school dances and college ice breakers are long gone. We are in control of our time, which includes new experiences and the amount of new people we decide to meet.
Spending time with another, cell phone tucked away, is a true gift. By simply sitting in the presence of another, we show that we value and appreciate the people in our lives, no matter how much history you have together. It’s a great way to spend these final days of August.
And when the holidays come around this year, I may think twice about wrapping a simple gift card for a friend or family member. I know if I do, I will issue the same instructions as my Grandma: “Just make sure we use it together.”
Time is a gift. Give it often. Give it freely. And embrace it.