December 21, 2011

Gift of Presence

I realize, as I get older, that one of the best gifts is the gift of presence.

Last night I visited a friend, in part to drop off Christmas packages for her kids. This past year I’ve had a habit of spending many Tuesday nights at their house. Sometimes I show up to help with child care, so she can get a break while her spouse works late. Without kids of my own, it’s been delightful to cultivate relationships with little Hannah and Emma, becoming another trusted adult in their lives. But other times I come by so my friend and I can get a good long chat after the kids are in bed. It keeps us both sane.

It happens that my friend is clergy, serving a big congregation in New York City. Upon arrival in her kitchen last night I realized what this meant – a really, really busy week preparing for Christmas! At first I wondered if she’d rather have a night alone, a little quiet space in the midst of multiple demands of parish and family life. But it soon become obvious that the best way to support her – personally and professionally – was to hang around, help prepare the next day’s meal, and listen to the deeper dimensions of her full life.

Especially at this time of year, when the wider culture pushes us to spend time rushing around buying presents, being fully present to one another is the greater gift.