In My Ohio

​On the One Gift You Actually Need

Darren C. Demaree
​Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday. The succession of days where you are expected to spend money or not spend money if the previous season has granted us protest-worthy actions has already come and gone. That doesn’t mean that you’re not done shopping or giving, but it does mean that the bell has been rung and it will not be un-rung until every name on your list has been granted their gift. You might even go ahead and buy yourself a present for the season. Good for you. My guess is that you will buy something you want, something you can hold and show to others, something decadent that doesn’t normally fit into the budget, and again, I say good for you. Whatever it may be, whatever you buy for whomever you’ve decided to share this season with, we all know that the unwrapping will not last as long as you wanted it to. It will be lifted into the air one time, and then it becomes part of their collection of things. My advice is to give the gifts, of course, be generous and celebrate each other, but the only gift you will actually need is one hour of time to think.
If you’re married, send your spouse to get a massage or get them a ticket to the movie you know they want to see without you. If you have kids, get the grandparents involved, and find a way to lovingly remove them from the scenario. If the weather permits, chuck some broccoli bones into the backyard and let the dogs be animals for an hour. Catnip for the cat. Drug the goldfish. Finally alone? Turn off your phone. Turn off the music. Unplug the cable and the wireless. Keep the lights on if you’ve never quite trusted the dark. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee or thirty-year old whiskey, and just sit there for an hour. Eat something good. Something rich or sweet or savory, and sit quietly with that goodness.
Now, think about that list of people you’ve been shopping for. The gifts are great, and hopefully appreciated, but what can you do to make their lives better? An extra phone call or an extra lunch every couple of months? Think about your neighbors (not the world as a whole, but your physical neighbors), you know things about them that they haven’t even purposively shared with you, how could you be a better neighbor? Think about your town, your city, your state, and keep eating that goodness. We move so often now, that very few people carry theirs home with them anymore. What can you do to make the place you live more identifiable with progress? Finally, embrace how small and warm the room you are sitting in is. You are safe and loved, it probably took you several hours of phone calls and scheming just to get this one hour to yourself. That’s wonderful.
We have moved past the point of being overwhelmed by stimulus. There are studies done now that we have to engage our young people with several things at once because they are so trained to multi-task that they can’t learn one thing at a time anymore. So, the impersonal stimuli is constant, it’s drowning, and we rarely give ourselves enough oxygen to take steps forward. That’s what I want this year. I want to have the time to sit and think about how I can drag myself one or two steps forward. What can I do for Ohio? How can I be a better, more engaged parent? How can I be a more complete, understanding husband, son, and brother? Do I have a big thought that could help lots of people at once? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I owe myself and owe them an hour to see what can shake loose.