Holiday “Cheer”?

I have to admit while I love the holidays, I hate the holiday crowds and the bad feelings that seem to circulate at this time of the year. Going to the mall is a nightmare – no parking spaces, people pushing everywhere and fighting for a bargain as if it will make the difference in their lives. I listen to the advertisements for the “perfect” gift and I can’t help but think about the families and children who watch it all but can’t participate in it due to financial or other constraints.

Holidays can be a time of giving, but what if we don’t have the means with which to give? Or the resources to share with someone else? “Giving” can mean simply giving of one’s self. It can mean giving of a happy spirit, of a smile or a kind word. Sometimes the best sort of giving is the kind that doesn’t include anything monetary but is simply a gesture that says to someone, “You matter in the world.”

While I was thinking about this blog, a friend shared a wonderful story with me about how giving can be displayed during the holiday season (or anytime). She wrote about a friend of hers who is a church secretary and had been under the weather for quite a few days. If you don’t know what it is like to be a church secretary, it’s not easy. Parishioners can actually sometimes take advantage, or be angry and pushy. Once, at the church I attended, the parishioners voted to have the secretary take the phone into the bathroom with her because they never wanted her to miss their calls!

But I digress – I just wanted to illustrate that it isn’t always a comfy, cozy role to play! In any event, this particular church secretary was sitting at her desk when a parishioner called about something fairly minor and heard in the secretary’s voice how under the weather she was feeling. The parishioner responded to her sniffles and coughs with, “You need some chicken soup!” The secretary laughed about this and hung up. In no more than 10 minutes, the husband of the parishioner who had called was in her office with a warm jar of chicken soup. And not the canned kind – this was filled with carrots, potatoes, celery and leeks! The secretary just basked in the experience of feeling like she mattered. She experienced having someone care – truly care – and care enough to act on it.

How often throughout the day do we get offered the chance to show someone else we care? It could be opening the door for someone carrying heavy things. It could be showing someone how to get somewhere when we observe they are lost on streets we know. It could be letting a person with only one item cut in front of us in line while we are doing our holiday shopping. It could be giving someone a joyous hug and greeting “just because.” We are all gifted with many, many chances, just as this parishioner was gifted, to give something of ourselves to someone else. Why don’t we take more chances to open up and offer these gifts?

This holiday season, you don’t have to buy gifts for the homeless, or serve at a soup kitchen, or donate to a needy child (although I suggest you think about it if you can….) but you can find so many opportunities to show the hand of kindness to those who aren’t apparently needy. Even those of us with warm homes and plenty of food to eat want to feel cared for – and “known.” We want to matter to someone else. When a person we encounter anywhere along the way seems to know that we need a hand, or a hug, and they extend it – is there any better feeling in the world?

Make someone’s day today – take the gift that offered to you, of the ability to do something out of the goodness of your heart for someone else. Take that gift and give of yourself to someone else who needs you.