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I’ve received and given so many wonderful gifts over the years. When our children were small, I spent so much on Christmas gifts that I didn’t pay off my credit cards until June. I would go to the mall with my family and watch their eyes light up when they saw the toys, electronic devices, games, jewelry, shoes and clothes they really wanted. I’m quite sure they were following my line of sight also.

On Christmas morning we gathered around the tree to open neatly wrapped presents. That’s when things got interesting! Gifts would be passed out to each family member one by one. The focus would be on that person while s/he removed the wrapping paper. Most of the times it was what the person wanted. After the presents were opened everyone beamed with joy. We always wanted to be sure everyone received close to the same number of gifts and value.

As we’ve gotten older less emphasis is placed on presence than presents. Over the years I have received so many wonderful gifts, but none immediately comes to mind. However, time with family and friends stay with me. The conversations with words of affirmation are gifts that keep on giving. Words are like keys: If you choose them right, they can open hearts and enhance relationships.  Over time we have learned to speak so that we enjoy speaking and listening to each other. Whether it is at home or at work, relationships matter! There needs to be boundaries between home and work life, but there are parallels.

I have three degrees, but my greatest life lesson is to put relationships above everything else.  Just like we are not a family because we live together. We are a family because we respect, trust and care for each other.  In that same vain, we are not a team because we work together, but because of the same qualities. That is why the greatest gift we can give is being fully present and lifting each other up. Relationships work for those who work on them. Put in the work. Merry Christmas!