When did the focus of this season turn from peace, love and joy to Black Friday bargain hunting, short fuses over parking spaces at the mall and endless stress over holiday preparations? Just look around. People leaving the Thanksgiving table
to become part of the crush of Black Friday shopping madness all in the name of getting the best deal on the perfect gift.
This outing often escalates into brawls over what? The latest gizmo or gadget!
With all the stress of shopping, traveling, wrapping presents, putting up decorations and cooking, do we even remember why we gather with friends and family to celebrate; or, has it just become about stuff? I believe it’s time to take a step back and reflect on what would truly be the perfect gift for our loved ones, whether they be family or friends. It’s a gift that doesn’t even have to be wrapped.
It is the gift of love. The gift of putting others before ourselves and understanding their love language. Love language?
Growing up, I never doubted that my father loved me. But, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I realized how much my mother did love me. My dad spoke my love language; but my mother did not. And, I did not speak hers.
My dad always made time for me and my sister. He set up the Tall Tale Society; and on Saturday mornings, we all waited breathlessly as he made up stories that captured our imaginations. Then, it was the double features at the movies. He taught himself our school subjects, especially math and science, to help us out when we struggled. We had this little thing between us. Since our apartment was on the top floor of my grandmother’s home, my dad had to walk up the stairs to get into our apartment. There was a landing at the top with a banister. My sister and I would sit on the landing and slip our legs through the banister slats. When my dad came up the stairs, he would turn and lovingly tap our feet to say I love you. My dad was, also, the one to tell me about the birds and the bees.
My mom, on the other hand, was very structured and everything was on a schedule. She cooked meals for the week from scratch and froze them. She cleaned the house relentlessly every day. She washed the floor and vacuumed the carpets twice a day. We were not allowed to step on the carpets, once they were vacuumed. I couldn’t resist. I just had to walk across the perfectly coifed carpets and leave little footprints. There was not a spec of dust anywhere. She would climb out onto the roof above the downstairs apartment to clean the windows four times a week.
She would even do this window ritual, as the clouds were rolling in and rain was about to fall. I would often tell her “it’s going to rain, so why are you cleaning the windows?” She wouldn’t listen. She had a schedule; and the weather better cooperate! When the torrents of rain would fall, she would scream “MY WINDOWS!”
There was peace between my dad and me; but, with my mom – tension. Why? I think it comes down to speaking the same love language.
One of the best books I ever read was The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.
When we understand which love language is important to our spouse, family or friends, it is amazing how much communication improves. According to Gary Chapman, there are five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch. It can take time, especially when their love language is different than ours. But, it’s so worth the effort.
My primary language is quality time. My dad spoke my language. The fact that he made the effort to spend time with me – well that meant everything to me. I didn’t question that he loved me. My mom’s primary love language was Acts of Service; hence all the cooking and cleaning and doing for her family. Because this wasn’t my love language, I felt the house was more important to her than me. Not at all true!
I believe we should, also, give ourselves the gift of love by understanding our own love language. What is important to you? Do you need to be complimented and encouraged – Words of Affirmation. Do you need to have your loved ones spend time with you – Quality Time. Do you enjoy receiving gifts as an expression of love and affection – Receiving Gifts. Do you like to do for others – Acts of Service. And, finally, do you enjoy being held or receiving a gentle caress – Physical Touch.
When I realized that my mother’s language was acts of service, I cried. She poured out her heart to me each and every day by making sure that all my needs were met. Even though I didn’t get it until five years after she passed away, I’m grateful that every time I spoke to her I told her I loved her. Her second love language was words of affirmation. I spoke to her the day before she had a massive stroke. I told her, “Mom I love you”. That was the first time she didn’t just say “I love you” back. She said, “I love you and thank you”! I think she knew it would be the last time we would speak. When I received word that she was in a coma, I flew back east. She was on life support; and even though she had a DNR, I asked my family to keep her on life support until I arrived. I needed closure. I sat by her bedside and stroked her arm. Then something miraculous happened. I said, “I love you, Mom.” And, lo and behold, her foot moved. My cousin, Mark, was at the foot of the hospital bed; and he just looked at me. On her deathbed, I spoke her love language. I know she heard me.
So, during this season of giving, give the most meaningful gift of all. Give the gift of love.
And, as we grow in who we are, remember… it’s never too late to go after your dreams!