Joyful choices create heart-warming holidays
Have you entered into the fray, spending countless hours driving some distance and wresting your way through unruly crowds of people, to tangle with harried and ill-informed retail workers, to lavishly spend money you may not be able to spare, on stuff recipients may not need or appreciate as your way to celebrate the birth of a particular little baby? How fun is that?
Rather, dear readers, there is much to be gained from shopping locally. I won’t belabor the issue with more verbiage you don’t need or want from me, but it seemed important to confirm my personal dedication to supporting our local businesses – for the good of us all.
There’s another important message I bring you in some form year after year because I believe we all profit from reminders of this critical issue. Many of us need reminders because we haven’t been there ourselves and have no idea how unbearably difficult it can be to survive the first holiday season after a major loss.
Unless you’ve been there you likely can’t appreciate what a difference it makes when holiday celebrations include and embrace the lonely, the maligned, the disillusioned, the sorrowful, the worried, the confused, the widowed, the evicted, the foreclosed, the divorced, the grieving, the infirm, the homeless, and even, perhaps especially, the addicted.
I grant these are busy days. All the more reason to enrich such days with the inclusion of someone hungry for connection. Going this week to see a special holiday theatrical performance? Who might be thrilled to be invited to join you, whether or not it’s “dutch treat?”
Do you still bake cookies at this time of year? It might take more time and be more complicated. Some frustration might appear. But an invitation to join you for this long-standing tradition might also be the very thing to lift a certain person’s spirits.
Or how about asking a busy mother to allow you to share your baking activity with her child or children, giving the mom a precious piece of unencumbered time to catch up with her own holiday requirements or just to relax in a hot bubble bath?
Going out some evening to drive around looking at beautiful light displays? Who can you imagine might like to tag along? Christmas caroling? Making Hanukkah rounds? Visiting the homebound? Any of these little things might fill the gap – or a big part of it – for the lonely.
Even watching television, playing a board game or working a jigsaw puzzle while sharing a cup of hot spiced apple cider might be a welcome diversion for one whose holiday season is especially difficult this year.
For every marriage that ended in 2011, whether through death or divorce, there is at least one survivor whose entire world has been turned upside down. For every parent who lost a child in 2011, whether through death or alienation, there is at least one person working through debilitating grief. You can make a difference for that person by just picking up the phone. “I have some gift wrapping to do this afternoon and it would be much more fun if I had some company. Are you free?”
When one is widowed, usually there is lots of attention in the beginning, which is welcome and wonderful. Very often, however, friends quit calling as they get involved with their normal routine again.
With a divorce, many folks just don’t know what to do. Sometimes they ignore each party for fear of offending the other. Sometimes they shun the separated folks through moral condemnation. And some friends, not knowing what to say, simply stay away.
Please remember lonely friends, at holiday time especially. Include singles for your dinner parties and other celebrations. I’ll always remember an open house I planned one year on the Sunday between Christmas and New Years. One gentleman and then another took me aside to thank me profusely for including them because that party was the only holiday event in which they had been included.
Once I spent nearly a year with a feisty 90-year-old who still lived in the home her departed husband had built some 60 years before. Rose loved to give the place a fresh look periodically by changing the curtains and thought nothing of climbing up on top of her TV to reach the curtain rods above.
One thing she hadn’t thought about for many years, however, was dressing up her lovely home for Christmas. When the Boy Scouts selling trees in her home town of Norwich, Connecticut heard about Rose, they enthusiastically agreed to not only deliver a tree but also to get it all set up in a stand for just a small extra donation.
Rose’s eyes glistened as we unpacked dusty cartons I’d brought down from the attic. Precious memories spilled forth with each ornament we unwrapped and ceremoniously placed on the tree. Soon we found ourselves singing Christmas carols and building a fire in the long-unused fireplace.
For how many others can you make this a merrier Christmas or a happier Hanukkah season?
Let me also suggest you put yourself in the role of receiver when contemplating holiday gifts. For example…
Would you yourself rather have one more appliance for your overstocked kitchen or a couple’s pledge to bring fresh produce from their garden once a week throughout next summer?
Would you rather have one more shirt in your overcrowded closet or a little jar to open occasionally and randomly select a slip of paper on which the gift-giver has chronicled a cherished memory of something you once did.
Would you prefer a new laptop carrier or a promise from a friend to clean your car inside and out on a day of your choosing?
What if a trusted neighbor committed to being your “Laundry Fairy” for a couple of months; just provide a house key and they’ll keep tabs so that you come home regularly to freshly folded linens and clothing?
How creative is your imagination? I bet you’ll come up with some beauties as you prepare gifts in honor of Jesus’ birthday?