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.
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?