The Best Christmas Gift You Can Give

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MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS ago now, singer/songwriter Harry Chapin wrote and sang a song that captured all too accurately how parents often fail to give their children the one gift they most want and need.

“The Cat and the Cradle” told the story of a father too busy to spend time with his young son. The father gave the little boy plenty of things—even one time, a new baseball. But when the lad wanted his dad to spend time playing ball together, the father begged off, saying that right now, he was too busy, but that later, they’d have a good time.

But later never came. And the years raced by. The young son grew up and had a family of his own. Now the tables turned, as the father, now retired, finally wanted to spend time with his grown son. And in a telling stanza, the song shares, in the father’s words, the results of his request:

“I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
I said, ‘I’d like to see you if you don’t mind.’

He said, ‘I’d love to, Dad, if I could find the time.
You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kid’s got the flu,
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad.
It’s sure been nice talking to you.’

And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me,
He’d grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.”

Christmas will soon be here—it’s only days away as this is posted. This Christmas, consider the gifts you plan to give to those you love.

Perhaps all of us could do well to remember that a gift that far surpasses anything else we could give is not something that fits under a tree. It won’t fit in a box.

The greatest, most needed, most desired gift of all is to give ourselves—our time, our care, our undivided attention, our focused interest, our encouragement, our affirmation, our love.

For some, this Christmas will reflect a prosperous year. For others, it will be a “lean” Christmas—with little or nothing for gifts. But there’s not a one of us who can’t give the most treasured gift of all—ourselves.

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