The Gift That Counts

Last year I celebrated a significant birthday. As much as I tried to bury it in a marathon effort and fundraising for refugees, there were friends and family who still snuck in some gift-giving.

I received some wonderful presents from people who clearly know me well. The generosity of my work colleagues blew me away and also their perspicacity in choosing a gift that happened to be on my bucket list – a session in a flotation tank.

Birthday gifts that also made me happy were the many friends and members of the family who generously supported my bid to raise money for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Surely the best birthday presents help someone else in need.

ASRC Fundraising

However, the birthday gift that touched me most deeply and for which I was most grateful did not come wrapped in colourful paper.

A few weeks before my birthday, a friend asked if I could babysit their baby son so she and her partner could go out for a date night. I eagerly agreed. With three now-grown sons, time with baby boys is always a joy. With an arrival time set on 6pm, my friend insisted that she provide me with a meal. I argued that it was ridiculous to be going out for dinner and still have to provide a meal and I was more than happy to provide for myself. She insisted again and stated she already had it planned. I reluctantly agreed.

I arrived at the appointed time and was surprised to see her mother and brother there but then inwardly shrugged and decided it must be a family dinner out.

As I stood there, waiting for them to leave, my friend looked at me, smiled and said, “You’re not babysitting.”

“What?” I said.

“You’re not babysitting. My brother is babysitting and we are taking you out for dinner.”


“We’re taking you out for an early birthday dinner.”

I stared at each of them trying to comprehend. Then it dawned on me. And then the tears welled up.

In a year when my trust in friendship had been badly shaken…

In a year when I wondered if my worth lies only in what I can do and not in who I am…

In a year when I felt so confused about how to read people’s motives that I have become increasingly socially reclusive…

…Such a gift was unexpected.

More was in store as I arrived at the restaurant to find other friends part of the secret. More emotion. More confusion and joy.

I received some wonderful gifts from people who took time to think carefully about what I would like and I will treasure them always.

But, in the end, all any of us really wants is to know we are loved and wanted for who we are and for others to want to spend time with us. That is a gift that truly counts.


What is the gift that truly counts for you?


You Want It When? – Delayed vs Instant Gratification

How do you open a present? Do you rip the paper off, revealing its contents in a nanosecond? Or do you carefully remove each piece of tape and unwrap the paper (immediately folding it of course) to reveal the gift several minutes after the giver has lost patience?

What about practical jokes? Do you like something quick that will garner you immediate laughter or do you prefer the long game joke with the punchline coming a week after everyone’s forgotten the original premise?

In a world of online shopping, video-on-demand and a 24/7 communication tool in the palm of our hand, you’d think we’d be a community of Instant Gratification Seekers.

And there’s no doubt there’s a lot of them out there.

But the Delayed Gratification Seekers are still out there too.

I am one of them.

Case Study

A delivery of mail containing:

2 Bills

1 Payslip

1 Greeting card

1 Magazine

1 Parcel (containing something eagerly awaited)

In what order would you open them?

I’m guessing the Instant Gratification Seeker would open the parcel first, then the greeting card, the magazine (and probably take the time to peruse it) then the payslip and bills.

Here’s the order I opened them:

Bills – Payslip – Greeting Card – Parcel

I am yet to open the magazine. I want a quiet block of time to enjoy it properly so I’ll wait.

The term ‘delayed gratification’ has a tendency to sound like a bad thing. Like you’re punishing yourself by making yourself wait for something pleasurable. But I’d argue that it actually adds to the pleasure.

I’m currently waiting on a letter from a friend. I know it is going to be something special. It is also something that I very much want to read. But I’m in no hurry to receive it.

You see, it’s the joy of the waiting. It’s the¬†excitement of the anticipation. It’s the imagining of what it might be like. Once I have it, as wonderful as that will be, it will also mean that the pleasure of that expectation¬†will be over. And that will make me a little bit sad.

Instant gratification is, well, instantly gratifying but are we short-changing ourselves of more? Isn’t it a richer experience of gratification if we have to wait for it?

So. Instant? Or Delayed?

What’s your gratification?




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