Tuesday, July 31, 2007

[Essay] Presence And Presents

The idea for this article really came from a homily last Sunday, July 22, 2007. Although I don’t have a family of my own at the moment and for ages more to come, I believe that this is the primary reason why families today are not that bonded together. They don’t talk to each other much anymore because of the demands of their jobs, their activities, their social circles. Because of these factors, they compensate by showering their children with presents and practically anything that money could buy.

I’m not saying that giving your children presents is bad – no it’s not but it would be so much better if you could enjoy those presents together with your kids. If you’ve given a train set to your five year old kid, then help him assemble it and then play with it right along beside your kid – spend time with them because it makes the presents all the more memorable and it will teach your kids to take better care of their things because if something is memorable to you, your tendency is to cherish it. I’m not also saying that technology in this regard is bad – I firmly believe that in this instance, technology could help strengthen the bonds of family especially if you all live far from each other – now that we have emails, mobile phones, etc.

But some families tend to take advantage of technology in a negative way like having TV sets in every room of the house. Yes, our family is guilty of this too but somehow, we still see to it that we watch if not the same TV series, at least a movie together. I tell you, it is so much nicer to watch a movie together with the whole family squeezing in on the couch or at your feet and sharing a big bowl of popcorn or two big bags of chips; or having lots of fun and bickering when making a dive for the remote and guarding it with your life so your siblings won’t be able to watch their favorite TV series that is currently playing when your favorite TV series is on then finally settling down to agree to switch channels during commercial breaks. Yes, that was how we three siblings watched TV during our younger days. And I miss it from time to time so instead, we watch a video together and we still do share the chips even if we have three bags of different flavored chips, we’d open one bag first then the second then the third.

Because of all these childhood memories, I seem to recall the significant difference between these two words. We were never that close to our dad because of time & place constraints and he would instead shower us with gadgets, clothes, or whatever we wanted that is within his reasonable budget when he comes home, which is rare, while my mom was always there for us despite her long teaching hours at the university, she still takes time out to play, read, watch, and to talk about each of our day, share thoughts and stories. Because of this apparent difference in emotional bonds, I noticed that the things, both big and small, that came from our dad has less sentimental value compared to those given by our mom. Although both parent’s presents were given due appreciation, the interest in the presents our dad gives fades quickly and easily discarded our we could easily part from and give to charity but the presents that came from our mom lingers and comes back to us every time we see it, because we remember the occasion when it was given and the succeeding memories associated with such things because she too was there to share it with and it makes it all the more hard to just throw old stuff away or part with it.

With a typical family in this day and age, granting that jobs in the 21st century is much more demanding and time consuming compared to before and that although we have the convenience of washing machines, rice cookers, microwaves, vacuum cleaners to help us in doing chores but why is it that despite all these time-saving devices, we still find ourselves having not enough time for everything else or rather, for the important things like family time?

Maybe it’s not really the demands of our jobs but rather the pressure we put on ourselves. Working too much or too long will not solve or clean your incoming office tray because you know work doesn’t really end. It’s a never ending cycle every single day and in the whole scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter whether you go home at 5pm or at 12am because your work will still be there come 8am. So instead of slaving over it and missing the important things in life though it may be as simple as seeing the setting sun, hearing your kids yelling at the top of their voices and chasing their siblings or playmates across the street or around the house, teaching your dog a new trick, taking a walk with your father, mother, wife or sons and daughters, talking with your family about their day, their plans, their hopes and dreams under the light of the stars and full moon as you all gather together sitting at your front yard and drinking something warm to aid digestion after a full and hearty meal or just laughing about old memories; why don’t you stop for a while and enjoy the simple pleasures of life?

For some, life is short but there are others who are blessed with a tremendously long and healthy life. Would you like to live this life and come to its end only to realize that it was all such a blur, that you didn’t even really know your own family or worse even your own self, it’s like you’ve lost your own self worth or identity in the whirlwind of your work, or would you rather have spent your life filling it with good and bad memories of people and places you hold dear, with happiness and tears, failures and achievements?

In short, what do you prefer: a dull, boring existence or a life bursting with brilliant colors? Remember that in the end, it doesn’t matter how much wealth you’ve accumulated but rather, it is how you’ve lived your life and how you’ve touched others lives is what counts the most.