It’s the thought that counts!

When it comes to present buying, I sometimes end up in a bit of a rut. I mean, I enjoy it, don’t get me wrong. And when whoever it is has given me a list, I’m happy. But you know how it is when you spend about 10, hour-long shopping trips picking up random items in shops and then moving on because they don’t feel like the perfect gift?

Whether you’re buying them or opening them, it’s easy to forget the significance of presents. When you’re opening them, your immediate emotional reaction depends on just how much potential for use and/or enjoyment they have. And sadly, there are always people who forget, or who wait until the last minute to buy something quick and cheap that is of no interest to the recipient. But it’s the thought that counts. Right?

Funnily enough, at the beginning of my Discipleship course, I wrote a talk that covered this particular sentiment. I’d been asked to explore the parable of the labourers, in which a man gets a bunch of people off the street to work for him, and pays them the same wage, despite some of them having worked for longer than others.

What I thought Jesus was saying, I explained at the time, was that being a part of God’s Kingdom isn’t a question of how long we’ve been following Him for, but whether we are genuine followers at all. In other words, sometimes the sentiment behind our actions matters more than the actions themselves.

Which brings me onto “the thought that counts.” Often it’s perfectly acceptable to just get someone a little something to show that you’re thinking of them. Using the above saying to get away with sub-minimal effort relative to what is appropriate, however, isn’t the idea at all. It’s the thought that someone wanted to put time and money into giving you something they thought would make you happy, that counts.

So when buying presents, you want to be that person. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to find the best possible things, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to slow down and instead remember why you are doing this. To show you love someone by giving them something they like? If the intention is heartfelt, and the friend a genuine one, they will feel it.

When someone buys me a present without me reciprocating, I feel kind of bad. When it’s vice versa, I feel bad if I’ve made them feel bad. If you get my drift. But I’ve had at least two people say to me that it doesn’t matter to them. And I think if everyone took that attitude, all that awkwardness wouldn’t be an issue. Because rather than coming to a mutual agreement about being on present terms or not – which I’m guilty of considering – we would all be able to appreciate the simple satisfaction of bringing each other joy.

Speaking of which, Bouncer, Tango, Suri and George all thought they could bring me joy by helping with the Christmas tree last week. I thought I could bring them joy by scattering cat treats in another room. The fact that I then closed the living room door is not important.

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Safely away from the room full of over exuberant preschoolers!

Physical co-ordination, like too many things, has never been my strong point. This may have been obvious on my grandad‘s video of three year old me at Kindergarten in Taiwan, just sitting on a tricycle, fiddling with the parts but not zooming around the room with my peers. Or maybe later on, when Mum signed me up for ballet classes to improve my physical skills, only to spend weeks teaching me how to skip. Step, and hop, and repeat…

Actually, I’ve pretty much alluded to my dyspraxic tendencies here. Sport at school was my own hell on earth. Picture it: being surrounded by a field of people who may or may not be on your side running everywhere, shouting all at once, and a ball that you are supposed to be running after and moving in a certain direction, while being scolded for being so slow. Yes, it seems I am dyspraxic.

In general, I’m not a fan of self diagnosis. But most people on the autistic spectrum have dyspraxia. And my gross motor co-ordination* skills have always been sub average.

Which is basically what dyspraxia is. And when you already have to stretch your brain extra hard just to be nearly as socially skilled as most people, it can be a bummer to put up with. I didn’t learn to swim until I was nine. I needed parental help with learning to catch a ball. And there are some skills I never mastered: cycling, skipping with a rope, and walking on slippery surfaces.

By adulthood, if not adolescence, it often becomes less obvious. But even then, you may be aware of little ways in which you struggle. Like balancing. Or multitasking – yes, even if you are a woman! One thing I’ve noticed is that I tend to be slower on stairs (except the ones at home), especially when walking down. I can often make myself go faster, but it requires concentration.

Plus physical work. I spent my sixth form years (age 16 – 18) at Brooksby College studying animal care. This was a very hands-on course, 40% of which comprised farm practicals. Checking up on the new kittens was my favourite part. Trying to herd stampeding pigs or sheep into a confined space without getting laughed at by certain other students wasn’t. Similar to the dogs at a kennel and cattery I volunteered at. I put up with my boss yelling at me for two years before I decided I’d had enough.

I realise I’ve given a rather negative overview of dyspraxia. Truth be told, I’m just trying to explain how frustrating it can be, and to give others on the spectrum something to relate to. Besides, when I’m not wallowing in self-doubt, I know what I’m good at. I’m studious, physically fit, a careful thinker, detailed writer, and – despite the dyspraxia – a moderately competent violinist. Just not a dancer, footballer, acrobat, or farmer. We all have limitations, but don’t let them stop you from recognising your talents.

Oh and I can also skip. Almost forgot that one.