I have always loved shopping for gifts for family and friends. In the past few years, I haven't had as much money to spend on gifts, and shopping doesn't hold the same appeal when you don't have a pocket full of money. At times, I've felt sad that I couldn't buy the things that I thought were just perfect for my daughters, or for a dear friend, and other times, I've just told myself that it's the love that counts, and not the money spent on a gift.
In the past few weeks, I've heard people talking about a book that I read several years ago, called "The Five Love Languages" by Dr. Gary Chapman. Hearing about this book again, reminded me that it is the love that's important, not the money spent. It, also, reminded me how important it is to pay attention to those around us. For those of you not familiar with the book, the author relates that everyone has their own "love language." A love language is identified by what causes us to feel most loved.
Some of us don't feel loved if we don't get presents. That's what we equate with someone really meaning that they love us. This doesn't mean that just any old gift will do. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it does need to be something that shows that the other person was paying attention to us...that they noticed that we like certain things, and dislike others. That reminds me of my friend, Joyce.
One Christmas, Joyce was sure that she would receive a diamond ring, from her boyfriend, as her gift, because they had been talking about marriage. She was a little surprised when her present was in a very large box. The box had the name of one of the finest clothing stores in town embossed on the lid, and she thought to herself that it wasn't a ring, but at least it was going to be something really nice to wear. She was sure that he had bought a new winter coat for her, because she had told him how her old coat really didn't keep her very warm. Her smile turned to a frown, when she opened the box and discovered a set of new mud flaps for her car. According to her boyfriend, who is now, surprisingly, her husband, all he remembers is the box sailing toward his head! Her love language is definitely "gifts," but to her, receiving those mud flaps meant that he really hadn't been paying attention.
Others of us, don't feel loved unless someone spends quality time with us. Quality time does not mean, sitting in a theater and watching a movie together. Quality time means really listening to what the other person is saying to us. It means putting aside duties that may be filling our time, to focus on that other person, and recognize them as an important part of our lives.
I recently heard a speaker mention that a male friend of hers confided that he had done something that made his wife very angry. To make amends, he brought her beautiful flowers, and she practically threw them at him. He was confused. He thought flowers would show her that he was sorry. His wife proceeded to tell him that if he wanted her to know that he loved her and that he was sorry, he would wash the dishes. Rather than pouting about his gift not being appreciated, he took her words to heart, and he washed the dishes. According to the speaker, this man now washes the dishes every night for his wife, to show her he loves her. Her love language is "acts of service." When the speaker told this story, I saw a number of women bobbing their heads up and down in agreement, so, apparently they would appreciate someone handling one of their chores to show them they are loved.
There are others who need a physical touch. Hugs are mainstays in their love language. A massage would be a great gift for someone whose love language is touch.
Still others feel most loved if they hear, or read, words of love. A letter of appreciation, a card of thanks, a telephone call to let someone know you are thinking of them...any of these things will tell someone with this love language that you care. I think that was my mom's love language. One year for her birthday, I wrote a letter to her telling her all of the things that I most appreciated and admired about her. She told me often that that letter meant so much to her, and that she read it often when she wasn't feeling well, or she couldn't sleep or she felt sad, and everything always seemed better after she read the letter. The year before she passed away, she sent a letter to me telling me how glad she was that I was her daughter, and listing the things that she admired about me. That letter is worth more than any amount of money that she could have given me.
Many of you are probably shopping for gifts these days for Christmas, birthdays, Hanukkah or some other occasion. Take some time to think about the people on your list. Ask them what they think their love language is? What do they appreciate most? And, if you would rather have someone wash dishes or cook dinner for you, let them know before they spend a lot of money on something that isn't what you want.
May each of you receive exactly what you need to know that you are loved!
“The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.” ~Pierre Corneille, Le Menteur
“Some people give time, some money, some their skills and connections, some literally give their life's blood. But everyone has something to give.” ~Barbara Bush