Funny, isn't it, that in our busyness we forget what our busyness is all about. If we look far enough below the surface, we find that our activity is inextricably linked to the welfare of those we love.

We are running, working, organizing, scheduling and performing because all this activity will somehow benefit people who, ironically, need us - our love, time and attention - much more than anything else we can provide.And we may be startled to realize that our busyness means nothing if the people we love are no longer there.

So, at Christmas, a time that symbolizes the deep and abiding love of God for mankind, I write to you, loved ones, to tell you of gifts I want to give you this year - gifts of love - gifts of myself.

I want to keep foremost in my mind that human life is tenuous and precious, and that I am extremely fortunate to be here and to have you with me each hour of each day. I want to remember your profound value each time our lives touch.

I want you to know daily of my love for you. I want you to hear it in my voice, see it in my eyes, feel it in my touch.

I want you to experience the bonding that exists between us and I want you to feel cherished. I want you to hear my words: "I'm proud of you," "I've missed you," "I'm so lucky I have you," "No wonder I love you so much."

I want to be there when you need me. I want to see your world through your eyes, and I want you to feel free to share your heart and your soul without feeling judged. I want you to feel our relationship is a safe place and a resting place from the world.

I want my actions to convey to you that you need not be perfect - that your imperfections are natural in the process of growing. I am reminded of the little boy who asked his teacher before giving a talk, "Teacher, is it OK if I do the very best I can?" That is all either of us can hope for. We are all doing in this life the very best we can.

As you make your mistakes, I want you to see mine. We are fellow travelers - perhaps at different stages or learning points - who are making this lifetime journey together. Let us hold hands and walk together in our growth.

I will work at always recognizing, as one poet put it, "the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul." I want my love to encourage you to be all that you wish and all that you can be. I want you to travel in directions you have not yet moved - with or without me. You are free and I wish always to honor that freedom. I cherish your being in my space but I do not need you for my own use.

I want to give you my time - to share it freely and without reservation - whenever you need it.

I want you to count on my commitment and loyalty to you. I have created boundaries around our relationship that protect your confidences and vulnerabilities.

I want to love you for those same vulnerabilities and to respect you for your strengths.

I want to express my appreciation frequently to you for just being you - for filling a vital space in my life - and for giving me so many personal gifts of love.

When, in my fallible state, I wound a fragile part of you, I want to make amends and have you hear the words: "Forgive me," "I was wrong," "I'm sorry."

Love is not a single act but a climate - a work in progress - in which we can grow and discover and learn together. I want to cultivate that climate and celebrate our love all year.

(SB) Dr. Larsen is a therapist practicing in Salt Lake City.