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Gifts In Kind(ness)

December, 2019

Pyracantha Berries, Palo Alto, CA: Photo by Martha Clark Scala

Why Not "Donate" Your Attention?

“What do you want for your birthday, Daddy?”

“The only thing I want is to have my family all here with me,” my elderly father would reply.

I thought his request was so corny. And I’d still pick my mother’s brain to figure out something I could purchase that Dad might want or need.

What would the holiday season or upcoming birthdays be without implicit pressure to buy our loved ones a nice gift or two. We are so conditioned to give tangible things, aren’t we?

But what Dad wanted was something less tangible. You couldn’t wrap it up with pretty paper and put a bow on it. It wasn’t the sort of package you could put under the Christmas tree, either.

The gift Dad wanted was presence, not presents. It is too late for me to tell him that I finally see what he meant.

Isn’t it true that as we age, most of us need less things? In this era of excessive distractions (cell phones, social media, a gillion TV shows to choose from, etc.), perhaps what folks need most is the gift of our attention.

This is not a campaign to forgo gift-giving. Exchanging actual gifts for birthdays or other holidays can bring delight and joy.

This is a campaign to give loved ones, co-workers, acquaintances, and random people you encounter in a store, on an elevator, or waiting in any line, your presence.

“No one has ever become

poor by giving.”

~ Anne Frank

Here are some examples of priceless intangible gifts:

Time (a hospital visit, a supportive phone conversation or text, help with figuring out something you don’t understand, sharing a skill you have, volunteer work, etc.)

Undivided Attention (listening without distractions such as having the TV on or your head buried in the newspaper or your cell phone)

Striving to Understand (demonstrating a desire to comprehend what someone else is feeling, or what they are going through, without focusing on or composing your next response or retort)

Something Homemade (a piece of handcrafted art, a homemade casserole or dessert, a poem, etc.)

When you have given any of these types of gifts, hasn’t it brought you great joy?

As the recipient of any of these types of gifts, hasn’t it made your day??

It most definitely made my father’s day. He loved the holidays when he got what was at the top of his wish list: our presence.

Non-profit organizations often ask for charitable contributions at this time of year. If we can give cash, we do. But sometimes they ask for gifts in kind, such as goods or services.

Why wait for the holidays? We can give these gifts in kind(ness) of presence every single day. Yes, every single day.

“I have found that among its

other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”

~ Maya Angelou

~ ~ ~

Feel free to add to the incomplete list of intangible gifts above in the Comments section below.

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Front Cover of Assembling a Life by Martha Clark Scala

The Holidays are Coming!

I have a request for a gift in kind(ness)!

If you have already read my memoir, Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself), would you be willing to write a short blurb or review and post it via social media? Or send it to me, so I can post it at the reviews page of my website?

I would be most grateful.

Speaking of reviews, check out these comments about the book written by an unbiased judge in an e-book contest.


Pictured Above

Pyracantha berries in Palo Alto, CA.


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Mark Your Calendars, SF Bay Area Readers!

Found Words, Found Wisdom: How Writing a Memoir Helped Me Discover That Happenstance is More Than Mere Coincidence

I will be the featured speaker at the monthly meeting of California Writers Club – SF/Peninsula Branch on Saturday, January 18, 2020. The meeting is from 10am to Noon, at Sequoia Yacht Club, 441 Seaport Court, Redwood City, CA. Tickets are $10 for members/$15 for non-members/$5 for students, and you can register here.


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