There are many items on our wish lists that make their way under the tree during the holiday season. Wrapped tightly in holiday paper and bows are clothing and shoes, that will be donated after their newness wears off, trinkets that will be tossed away once we tire of their worth, and digital devices that will become obsolete seconds after they are opened. Yet the most popular gift request made year after year, never seems to make it under the tree.

This year, I was surprised by a gift I never expected. One that I didn’t ask for, but one that surprisingly still keeps on giving.

On New Years Day, the death of a beloved aunt prompted a cross country road trip to the funeral. The very day I was planning to spend a special anniversary with my husband, suddenly turned into packing winter gear and mapping our direction towards a small town in southeastern New Mexico. Not what I had planned, but necessary as a demonstration of love and compassion for family.

But, why did this have to happen now? It was the first week of January, and the excitement of 2018 was beckoning!

I was anxious to take down Christmas decorations, clean the garage, and set new goals and resolutions for myself and my business. The calendar was awaiting a long list of things to do.

But If I were to be perfectly honest, nothing on my calendar held that much urgency. There was nothing that couldn’t be set aside long enough to set forth on the journey. So off we went, taking along my mother and father to visit more relatives along the way.

My husband has a way of convincing me to take time. He is a walking example of what it means to take time for himself and others. He shows through his actions, not just his words, that he’ll drop anything to make time for another. It’s an example I try to follow. And in this case, I’m glad I did.

Because a funny thing happened by the time the week was over. In giving my time, I received things in return.

I met new family members on the family tree, and spent time cherishing those who planted their roots. I saw new places, and mapped the routes of my ancestry. I heard new stories, and laughed at stories I’d heard millions of times before. I had no other choice but to sit back and let the journey lead me; and in doing so, I was able to leave the things I wanted to do behind, in order to do what I needed to do for others.

In 2018, I am learning the true meaning of gift giving. I must give of my time, in order to receive the benefits of it!

The true gifts in life cannot be bought. They require no money, nor the sacrifice of earthly goods. They merely require patience, gratitude, kindness, compassion, and unselfish acts of love for others.

Time is fleeting. What will you do until time runs out?