The Gift That Keeps On Giving - Your Time


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Dec 23, 2010 GMT
Jon maddog Hall


It is late, very late, and you are still trying to decide on a gift for your


[ mother | father | sister | brother | uncle | aunt | grand* | step* ]


You would have had enough money for a gift, but you saw those really awesome headphones that you just had to buy, and now you are very low on money. And it is late....very late....


Why not give the gift that keeps on giving? The gift that most of these people will really appreciate, and that demonstrates the true meaning of the holiday season? The gift of your time.


Find a nice holiday picture on the Internet (make sure it is freely licensed, perhaps by Creative Commons) and use GIMP, Inkscape or some other freely available software to make a greeting card out of it. Put your own sentiments down on the card, telling the person why you like them, and how you would like to spend some more time with them this coming year. Make a little “coupon” as an offer to do a certain number of hours of “computer work” for them and put the “coupon” in the card.


I do some of this “computer work” every year when I visit my family in Pennsylvania. Some of them would be considered “power users” and some would be considered “powerless users” (and some actually considered “Luddites”), but none of them have the training and experience that I have. So I help them fix small problems, upgrade their software, do a backup of their software and even help them evaluate new purchases (and even advise them when new purchases would not do much for them).


A gift like this costs nothing but the time that you spend with them, helping them understand (as much as they can) the things that you are doing and why their computer system either stopped working or is running so slow that the computer is almost unusable. And since you love them anyway, the time spent with them is great.


Recently my niece developed problems with her USB headset. When she talked into it, her voice became garbled and scratchy to the point where she could not be understood. This is particularly bad since she teaches over the Internet, and her students could not understand her. She had tried different USB headsets and they all did the same thing, so she knew it was not the headset. I did some analysis of the problem and came up with a solution that cost her no money, and certainly saved a lot of money over taking the unit to a “troubleshooting” store.


My brother, whose laptop is used only for browsing the web, had only 256 Mbytes of memory in the unit. While the laptop worked for what he wanted it to do, it was very slow. We found a memory upgrade that would double his memory for only eight dollars, so I ordered that for him and will install the memory when it arrives. This took a couple of hours, but I also updated his browser and some of the other software on his system while suggesting some free software that could do some of the things that he wanted to do, and helped him download it.


Most of my readers complain about their relatives asking them to do things and try to avoid this type of work, but why not formalize it and use it to spend some quality time with the people that you really love anyway? Recognize that when they call you up during the year that (barring collisions with already existing commitments) you should cheerfully and quickly help them solve their problems as part of their “present”. This formalization also works for birthdays and anniversaries.


Have a very nice holiday season.


Carpe Diem!

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