Presence Over Presents

Spending time with loved ones during the holidays can be the best present


Taylor Krieg

Classroom cheer: Mrs. Sarah LaRue Happily sits and talks with students. “In order to make make somebody feel loved and cherished, just listening to them and being there for them in whatever capacity they need is a great way to connect,” Larue said.

One of the worst feelings around this time of year is seeing the look of veiled disappointment on someone’s face when they open a present that was a miss. Out of courtesy, they’ll give you a “thanks!” and a manufactured smile, but both of you know it was a flop. There’s no easy way to figure out what would make someone’s day, but giving meaningful gifts doesn’t have to be impossible.

In fact, sometimes the best gift to give is quality time. In a world where everyone seems so busy, taking a break from the routines of everyday life to spend time with someone can be just as impactful as a material present. There’s nothing more refreshing than a good conversation and feeling like you matter to someone. English teacher Sarah LaRue finds it more effective to take a listening role.

“In order to make somebody feel special or cherished, just listening to them and being there for them in whatever capacity they need is a really great way to connect. We all like talking about ourselves and we love knowing that we’re cared for,” LaRue said.

There’s a lot of buying in our culture, even more so during the holidays: presents for family and friends, ingredients in holiday recipes and decorations to help get in the spirit of the season. Choosing to give time over physical objects is a way to break away from the typical routines of Christmastime in America, and also lightens the load of January debt. Another added bonus is that the stress of finding the “perfect gift” is taken out of the equation. Arranging a date with loved ones doesn’t have to be complicated, according to sophomore Audrey Beahan.

“Most of the time when I’m with my friends, we just go to a movie, or the park or the library. I just like being able to sit down and spend time with them,” Beahan said.

Even though there’s always pressure to have gatherings and exchange gifts, ultimately, there should be more to a friendship than material things. 

“At the end of the day, you shouldn’t have to buy something to validate someone’s presence,” Beahan said.

In many cases, the cliche proves true: it really is the thought that counts. Even if the gift in question is simple, showing that you thought of the person and wanted to recognize them with a present is meaningful on its own. Just because a gift is ‘store-bought’ doesn’t mean it has to feel mass-produced, there are a few ways to buy a personalized present. One method is to think about the recipient’s passions, and pick out something that pertains to their interests. For Beahan, that passion is art.

“I’m an artistic person, and whenever I get art supplies from people, I scream. It just shows that people know me and what makes me happy, which means a lot,” Beahan said.

Another way to pick out meaningful store-bought presents is to ask yourself, “What would bring this person joy? How would this make them happy? Have they mentioned wanting this thing before?” and then go from there. In sophomore Abbie Vester’s case, that made a present she received all the more special.

“[The best gift I’ve ever received] was for sure my dog. I’d wanted her for a really long time, and she’s my buddy,” Vester said.

Whatever the approach to choosing the right gift, the end goal of giving is to make the recipient feel cherished and appreciated, and if you navigate this holiday season with that in mind, you’ll be sure to succeed.