Make Christmas Real This Year
The holiday season is here and many will be rushing around in excitement and filled with joy over all the things that they will be doing and getting and that is a marvelous thing indeed: the joys of the Christmas Holidays, Hanukkah or any other holiday you celebrate at this time of year. Houses will be filled with lights and trees and candles and all sorts of wonderful smells and sounds. It feels like the holidays alright. For me, it is Christmas so I use the word Christmas. For others it could be Hanukkah or other holidays. It is not the word but the thought that I am talking here. I refuse to use the “Happy Holidays” because my holiday IS “Christmas” and when I say Merry Christmas to someone and they are Jewish,I expect them to say Happy Hanukkah back to me because that IS their holiday.
While others are out spending money and celebrating, many will do without this year. There will be no tree or lights, no presents under the tree, no family gathered around, no special meal, no one to share it with. For many, Christmas is the loneliest time of the year and there is no reason that it should be. If we all reached out and gave of our hearts and our time, then there would not be so many having a lonely Christmas or holiday. I hear people say “Not my problem” never realizing that the person in need could be them one day.
This led me to this conclusion: this time of the year is an extremely joyous holiday for many while at the same time, it is not only just the loneliest time of the year,it is one of the most self-absorbed and selfish times of the year. People become one tracked and it becomes all about them: the old “me-me-me syndrome”and those that are in hard times, going through hard times, or even on the street are forgotten. The most important part of this time of year should be giving love and being with people and commercialism has turned it into a fiasco of greed, glitter and superficial meanings for many while many are left alone and feeling unloved. And yet, we the people must take the blame for all the commercialism of this holiday because if we did not buy all the commercial stuff, it would not sell.
“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” Mother Teresa
I never could live that way and perhaps that is why our Christmases were always so simple and involved helping others. I learned through the many years of being chronically ill that there is more to “giving” than just buying a toy and tossing it in the “Toys for Tots” box. Giving comes from the heart. And believe it or not, giving to those that have nothing brings more joy than all the hundreds and even thousands of dollars that are spent each year by people throwing them into debt for months after. Opening your hearts and minds to those in need can bring a joy that can not be explained unless you have tried it.
When I could still get around, I served at the soup kitchens and delivered meals on Christmas day. I can not tell you how full my heart was from seeing the faces of the people I served or delivered meals to. The joy I got from receiving hugs from strangers who were so thrilled you cared enough about them to be there on Christmas Day. It is both one of the most humbling and rewarding experiences I ever have had in my life. To deliver a meal and take the few minutes to talk to the person, help them fix their food on the table and let them enjoy having some company was so rewarding.
Some time, just look at the stores with people running out on Black Friday, the violence, the mindless shopping and grabbing of things with no thought about the person they are giving it to and you should see that somewhere, some how, people have lost the true meaning of the holiday. I love shopping for people, hunting that one special gift no matter how small and I would do it all year-long. I will forever remember seeing my other son’s face when he opened his present one Christmas. He had always wanted a wind up fireplace mantle clock that chimed and I had found one at a second-hand shop. No, it was not new. I took it home, cleaned it up and had it sitting under the tree in a box all wrapped up for my son.
On Christmas eve, when my son picked up that box and heard the chime of his clock, the look of joy, excitement and anticipation is forever etched on my heart as he just looked at the box and then at me. Seeing him open that clock that probably cost five dollars and the true joy on his face was Christmas love for me. Not the mindless ripping off wrapping paper, looking at the gift and screaming “Oh boy!!” and then tossing the wrapping paper to the side AND the gift and reaching for the next present. My son held that clock and almost caressed it as he looked at every little spot on it, opened the door on it and stuck his finger in to move the pendulum back and forth and wound the key. It was a gift that he treasures today and still sits on his mantle.He was still holding that clock with awe when it came back around the circle and his turn to open his other present.
Our house has always been full until the past couple of years with people besides my small family who had no one to be with at the holidays. And I found something small for each one of them to open. We opened our home and our hearts to others that might not have had a Christmas and we opened our kitchen to them. Son and I cooked a buffet Christmas meal and had “open house” Christmas dinner so that those who could not be with family could drop in and eat with others. My son’s friends who were the volunteer firefighters on duty that day showed up along with many others. We had it going on for a couple of hours. Son smoked turkeys and I cooked the dressing and casseroles and the pies. Tables were set in our small living room and people came and went, with constant eating and talking and laughter.
Christmas eve was eggnog and singing and presents and we always had the gift for the “unknown Christmas visitor”. See, we truly believe that each year someone special will show up at Christmas to bless our house and hearts. It never fails. And so we buy something for the unknown Christmas visitors and place under our tree. Something small for an adult and a child is always there and someone always shows up that we just know was sent for the gift for the unknown Christmas visitor. Such small traditions and yet what joy they brought to the holiday season.
Christmas does not have to be all about the money and the big expensive gifts. In fact, if you want the true joy of Christmas that fills you up and stays etched in your heart,make Christmas about those that do not have instead of spending money on things that are soon forgotten. Put meaning into your Christmas and make it more about throwing a toy in the box at the store for some unknown child. Go down to the social services and secretly “adopt” a family for the holidays and ask them for names and ages and buy them some gifts that you really put thought into. Not some generic gift set but a real gift of the heart.
Or look around you and find people you know are struggling, fix a food box, put some presents with it and go put it on their porch and ring the bell and run off and hide and watch…and never tell you did it. Anonymous giving and never telling anyone you did it is one of the most exciting and rewarding things you can do. My sons and I spent many a holiday watching from across the street or over the hedge giggling with joy as a family opened their door and found a box of goodies on it. Volunteer at your soup kitchen or offer to deliver meals. Go visit a nursing home for many have no one. I used to take my boys when they were younger and it thrilled my heart to watch them going around hugging the men and women there who were just sitting with no family coming to visit. One woman thought I was her daughter one year and just held my hand: she told me she had thought I would not show up. She smiled and laughed and wanted to know if I liked the dress she sent. And I told her I loved her and assured her that I did love the dress. She thought it was the dress I had on. She would pat my face and rub my arm and talk about all sorts of family things of the family who had ceased to visit her about ten years before that. But, she kept them alive in her mind and heart. So my gift of the heart to her was being her daughter for the day.
This Christmas, give of yourself. The greatest gift you can give is love and time and giving up something you really want to give to another. I remember once reading a story on Mother Teresa and she said something along these lines: true giving is not giving what you no longer want such as cleaning out your clothes and giving them to someone. That is donating. True giving of the heart is taking that skirt or item or that block of time that you so desperately love and want and letting another have it because you know how much they want it and do not have it. That is real giving.
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
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