Said in the voice of King Julien, the egotistic and crazed lemur, the mental picture of ‘Merry Julienuary’ has definitely brightened up the month that began with coffee, attempts at work and nap times, and is continuing with work, visits and then some more work.

King Julien’s Julienuary starts with a sequel to Christmas in the receiving of many gifts to celebrate the month of him. Before you get excited about the potential for your birthday to extend to an entire month this year, renamed after yourself (although Octoberuth has a certain ring to it), in true moral-giving story style, presents did not make Julien happy. In fact, they bored him and he felt unfulfilled. It wasn’t until he, advised by Santa, began giving gifts to others to celebrate his month that he really felt the joy of it.

Christmas, now gone and practically forgotten in the return to work, reminds us regularly of the joy of gift giving. Yet how quickly do we forget that it’s in giving that we are fulfilled?

This week I’ve been trying to give out free things:
1. Compliments
2. Encouragement
3. Time

Spare time is not something I associate with my job in term time, and frankly if my brother and sister-in-law had moved into their house at the start of the Christmas holidays, I’d have found it much more convenient to help. However, I popped over on Thursday to admire the purchase, and found them working like Trojans to paint pretty much every wall in the place before the carpet fitters arrived. At 3:30 on the day in question, there were still 2 bedrooms and 2 flights of hall, stairs and landings to go. I had a ton of work to do (the reason for me being home at 3:30); not to mention the marking I had bought home. I had a beautifully planned evening ahead, which would also then involve a delightfully work free weekend. But I returned home, donned my painting apparel and got back to the task in hand. I painted one room and left at 7:30 to return to my marking pile; but I didn’t feel resentful come Saturday when I got up and started planning. It had been a joy to give my time and energy to a worthwhile cause and I’d actually forgotten how much I like painting. It needed to happen. The time for action was now (or then..anyway..). It cost me nothing but time rearrangement, but it made a huge difference to them.

I’ve also been the recipient of time giving this week. My husband took the day off work in order to enable the plumber to address the hot water issue – there wasn’t any. A friend shopped for my shopping list while she shopped for her own. I’d arranged dinner with another friend and when I sent her incoherent texts with no clue what to cook her, she bought and brought the dinner to cook in my kitchen instead.

It’s made me realise I value time given away. Sometimes the free gift that says, I love you enough to put your needs above mine, to consider what you most need, to act on that, to make you my priority, is the best gift.

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