In our family, we celebrate the joy of Christmas at this time of the year. I’ve been preparing for it this week by writing our annual Christmas letter, purchasing gifts for the kids and other family members, and creating the menu for our family meals. While I’ve been engaged in this holiday preparation, I’ve been contemplating the spirit, or meaning, behind these holidays and want to share my thoughts with you as I think they apply no matter which holiday you and your family celebrates this season.
One of our traditions during this season is to watch our favorite holiday movies. My husband’s favorite isIt’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart, and one of my kids’ favorites is Polar Express. If you haven’t seen either, I highly recommend them – and if you haven’t seen them lately, this is a good season to rent them as they are a good reminder of who it’s possible to be for the people in our lives.
In It’s a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart goes through life thinking it would have been better if he had never been born. A very non-traditional angel appears and takes him through his life showing him all the miracles that would not have occurred if he hadn’t been born – his brother would have died when he fell in the lake sledding, his wife would have been an “old maid,” his mother would have a boarding house to make ends meet, and his children would not have been born.
In Polar Express, one of the little boys, Billy, on the train to the North Pole, is from the “wrong side of the tracks.” He shares with the other children that, “Christmas never works out for me.” The children on the train are in a pivotal year in their belief in Santa Claus, so they are selected to ride the Polar Express to meet Santa Claus himself, and Billy has never experienced Santa Claus in his home. The other children befriend him, knowing that they would never have done so in another setting, and encourage him to have hope and believe in Santa Claus.
These movies illustrate something we do all of the time — take for granted our every day interactions with the people in our lives. If we don’t bring a meal to a sick friend or deliver a service that makes a difference for a client, will someone else? And if they do, will the result be the same? How intentional are you being about whose lives you are touching and the impact you are making? Are you paying attention to those who are making a difference for you each day?
Different people enter our lives all of the time, and we don’t always take the time to “see” and appreciate who is right in front of us. The reasons I use for this are that I’m already “busy” (yes, I know my partner’s recent blog on the word busy would point out to me that I’m using it as an excuse) and don’t want to “get involved” or have to invest in another relationship or be asked to do one more thing. But if I don’t, who will? What if it’s not random? Like the first insight in The Celestine Prophecy, what if there truly are no coincidences? What if the people in our lives are put there for a reason, and when that moment passes we have lost the opportunity the “universe” has put before us?
I’ve been pondering that this holiday season. This year, instead of getting caught up in all of the self-created hustle and bustle around me, I’ve been focusing on the people. Some things that I have been doing to enrich my relationships and holiday spirit include:
• Reducing the “extras” – Instead of purchasing poinsettias and wreaths and other holiday decorations, we sponsored a family at church who “Christmas just wasn’t working out for this year.” My children love to pick the angels off the tree and shop for other children, and with the tightening economy and choices we’re all faced with making, we did that and reduced the “extras.” I’ve noticed we haven’t even missed them. Where could you cut the extras?
• Being inclusive – On Christmas Day, we’re spending a “quiet day” at home and realized there are several people in our lives who don’t have family or friends to celebrate the holiday with, including my neighbor who I would never have known was going to be alone on Christmas unless I asked. So, we invited a handful of friends over for a simple potluck and an evening of games. Who in your life is there to reach out to and include?
• Putting the past in the past – One complaint I often hear around the holidays is that people have to spend a day with family or others that they’d rather not. In the spirit of being inclusive and contemplating that I’m meant to spend time with each person the universe puts in my path, I am willing to let today (and tomorrow) be a new day and put the past in the past, forgive any wrongs, and start anew. Are you?
• Enjoying family and friends – Really enjoy them – everything about them – even the little idiosyncrasies of your in-laws or the tiredness of the kids from all the excitement. A year from now,I want to remember how much I enjoyed my family – how much we laughed, how we reminisced, and how we shared our dreams for the future. What do you want to remember?
Regardless of how you celebrate the holidays this season, I invite you to appreciate – really appreciate – the people in your life, including those you’ve known for years and those you just met, and I will commit to do the same. And, maybe, we should consider taking this new commitment into the New Year. I’m game, are you?
Those are my thoughts about how to maximize the magic and joy available to each of us this holiday season. What are yours?
P.S. We will be taking a week off from our blog to celebrate the holidays with our families. You can expect to see our next posting on January 7th. In the meantime, all of us at ConvergenceCoaching wish you and your family the happiest of holidays and the brightest of possibilities in the shiny New Year!