It happened at a teahouse in California. I looked down our long, sparsely shaded table in the back garden of a quaint teahouse and remembered the worth of presence. From my seat I sat listening to the happy banter and clinking teaspoons of my husband, our three daughters and dear friends. Brimming teapots and dollops of soft butter beside fresh apricot scones were the center of attention. We sat and ate and ate and sat, present with each other and present to the moment. We talked, giggled, shared food, posed for photos, and took in the character of the surrounding gardens. It’s an idyllic memory for me and one I’ll cherish as a marking point where I realized my kids are becoming people. Real people apart from their dad and me. People with preferences and perspectives I can influence but cannot control. It’s their unique choice of tea flavors today and their unique choice of spouses and careers tomorrow. The type of physical presence I offer my daughters today effects the influential presence I have in their futures.
We forget the value of presence in our I-lives. It’s easy to confuse intimacy with information in cyber-real-life cross over lives. It’s safer to push buttons on an editable screen than have our presence push the wrong buttons in their hearts. Our presence is an expensive investment yet it’s easy to overlook its price. It’s a deduction in your time and plans with limitless potential returns when invested wisely. Your presence is your most valuable asset. It is the essence of uniqueness you bring to relationships and what’s left lingering in people’s thoughts after you’re gone.
People who know me know I like tea. People who know me best know that I enjoy sitting down to tea with them. The tea is simply a means to a relational end. Whether it’s sipping tea on my deck in solitude or surrounded by friends, it’s the power of presence that draws me there. Present to my own thoughts and notions, or present to their lives and dreams, both rely on the power of being available and generous with the time and genuine gifts God has entrusted me with.
Our lunch ended and kids were ready to vacation on, but the realization of the gift we all have to offer at the table of life has stuck for weeks now. In every relationship, in every situation, we choose our offering. We can present our best selves…the ones that are genuinely empathetic, forgiving, thoughtful, and joyful or we can present the distrustful, bitter, impatient, barely tolerant, angry side of us. We all have both sides to certain degrees, and for very good and real reasons in most cases. The choice is in which side we choose to offer in our presence.
If your brain is on summer vacation and you do little other soul searching this summer, mull over this one thing…what does your presence offer to those nearest to you? …Nearest to you at the dinner table, in the line at the grocery store, at preschool registration, riding in the car, sleeping beside you in bed…what do you offer with your presence? It’s our offering to the world and our legacy to be remembered.
“The cups are waiting,
Favorite chairs anticipating,
No matter what I have to do,
My friend there’s always time for you.” –anonymous