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2 weeks to Christmas – The Gift of Time

Maeve O'Neill, Zero Waste North West, North Ireland

Christmas time is fast approaching and many of us may be organising our present list. And it is a lovely thing to be able to show your love and appreciation for another being by giving them a present. However the world is drowning in ‘stuff’, and the last thing many of us need is more ‘stuff’. This ‘stuff’ is often new plastic, or wrapped in plastic, creating more waste and using more of our finite resources on this planet.

 

So why not make your presence your present?

Giving time is such an important gift, particularly in the fast paced, sometimes chaotic world we are living in, where time does not feel plentiful. There is a saying that the ‘greatest gift you can give someone is your time. Because when you give your time, you are giving a portion of your life that you will never get back.’ It costs nothing, but is so valuable.

 

The winter can be a hard time for many, as we approach the darkest time of the year at the winter solstice. Loneliness can affect people of all ages and has been identified as a major public health challenge throughout Europe, being linked to early mortality. In the age of the internet our human interactions are fewer and people keep themselves to themselves, or are just too busy to visit neighbours, friends or relatives. To give the gift of time can impact on your own or another person’s experience of loneliness or isolation. By giving our time to another person we can help improve our own or another’s wellbeing.

 

So, instead of buying a child another toy to add to their collection, why not give them a time voucher for a day of fun in the par with a zero waste picnic to share. Rather than giving your grandparent another pair of pyjamas, why not give them a time voucher for an excursion to the theatre or walk in the park. Or even your best friend, who you don’t get to hang out with as much as you’d like, give them 12 fun activities for each month of the year to do together, such as a bike ride or a board game. And you could give your sibling a time voucher to babysit your niece or nephew, so they can have a guilt free night out!

 

Many of us have skills that we can share with others, particularly those who may no longer have the ability to do certain things, such as fixing things in the house, so your time voucher could be a skill share. Or sharing our talents can also be a wonderful gift, such as playing a musical instrument in an older person’s home or carol singing around your neighbour’s homes. So by giving your time, you are also giving help and happiness to another person.

Giving our time for others is as much a gift for ourselves as it is for others through the wellbeing we can receive by giving our time. There is an African concept called ‘Ubuntu’, which simply means I am what I am because we are. It is the essence of being human, we cannot exist as a human being in isolation. We are created for togetherness and defined by our compassion and kindness towards others.

 

For thousands of years, people have come together at this cold corner of the year to celebrate the coming of lighter days and the new life that spring brings. It is this coming together which is fundamentally human and this still happens at Christmas time, as we slow down a bit and have more time for each other. But this is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the magic of spending time with others, and to value it as much as something you can buy in the shop.

 

As Charlie Brown, friend to Snoopy the Dog said, ‘It’s not what is under the Christmas tree that counts, it’s who’s around it.’ So may you have the time to give this Christmas and to spend with the people you love and who bring you joy. Giving time is zero wasting at its finest, reconnecting with what it really means to be human.

 

Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2019!

Hungry for more Zero Waste Christmas tips? Check out Zero Waste Austria’s ideas for zero waste presents!

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Yianna Sigalou

Yianna is currently doing a communications internship at Zero Waste Europe. She is passionate about the environment and science communication.

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