A present under the tree at Christmas brings a smile to everyone. Gift giving is a way to show our affection and love for others. However, should we think more about our presence, than presents?

We humans are social beings who crave connection. After the turmoils of the global pandemic, hopefully many of us will get together with family, friends and loved ones for the first time in a while.

The impacts of COVID-19 mean some of us may struggle to put presents under the tree but quality time, with people you love, is one of the best Christmas presents.

While I have been working through my list of gifts to buy, I know one of the best gifts is my presence. For me and for friends and family.

So, how do we be present? Lifeline’s crisis supporters do this every time they staff our 13 11 14 line. Presence requires compassion, empathy, and self-awareness.

Many people tell us during their Lifeline training that truly being present with somebody is one of the most challenging conversations in their life. To help them be successful, we help them learn new skills including the self-awareness to ‘unlearn’.

One of the most difficult things to unlearn is jumping straight to fixing people’s problems for them. This behaviour is understandable and usually well intentioned. But it is based on a focus on ourselves, our own biases and needs. Paradoxically, one of the most powerful ways to be present with others, is supporting them to be and help themselves.

To borrow from Katie Colombus, author of How to Listen – a good listener knows that silence can sometimes say far more than words. People in crisis shouldn’t feel rushed. If they’ve paused, they may just be finding it difficult to articulate their feelings.

Hopefully, your friends and family aren’t struggling. But really listening to them, not just talking to or at them is a gift for this festive season and the rest of the year. But Christmas is a very difficult for some. If you can, reach out to someone who is struggling or feeling lonely.

Lifeline has put on extra crisis supporters to meet the record demand for help which will continue this Christmas. A gift you may wish to give is donating to our Christmas campaign to keep our crisis supporters on the phones.

From everyone at Lifeline – Merry Christmas, especially to our crisis supporters.