We all see the headlines that tell us how bad things are, both here at home and all over the world. Our own checkbooks are likely to tell us the same story. Some have or are in the process of losing their jobs, homes, health insurance, and all the other trappings of a stable life.
But you know, I say so what if we don’t have so much to spend on Christmas this year – that certainly doesn’t mean we can’t give gifts to each other.
And that brings me to my challenge. Every day, from the time you read this until Christmas Eve, let’s all make it our mission to do at least one conscious kind thing for someone else every day — friend or stranger.
You know, I think the recession has been good for my feelings about Christmas. When things were good a few years ago (or we lived in that illusion anyway), I felt pressure to buy a gift for the kids, family, friends and sometimes even acquaintances. I felt the need to make sure gifts for my kids were piled high under the tree, and I often spent much more than was wise for our budget.
Last year, I felt a little differently. Worried if my husband or I would have a job into 2009, we cut back pretty dramatically on our spending. This year, we are grateful to still have jobs, our home and most of all our loved ones, but we are cutting back on our spending even more.
And you know what, I’m beginning to like it. I find myself thinking more about things I can do for those who are less fortunate in the way of time and caring, even if it can’t be money, than what I can buy to pile under the Christmas tree.
I’m also thinking more about those sappy Christmas movies that I love to watch over and over again, year after year. And most of all, I’m thinking of enjoying the company of those I love and cherish.
Sitting around the Thanksgiving table last week, I noted how things could change so from year to year. We usually spend Thanksgiving at a cousin’s house out of town, but this year, Charles and I opted to stay home for the first time in years. Our daughter, Miranda, spent the holiday with her fiance’s family, making it our first Thanksgiving without her since her birth. Our son, Zack, now living on his own for the first time, made the short trip from his house to ours and for the first time since she was a little girl, our niece Deserree,’ along with her three beautiful children, Lindsey, Brody and Nolan, came to have dinner with us. And we began a new tradition – having everyone tell what they are thankful for. It was nice and it I think it gave us all a new memory to cherish. And as Deserree and her kids left, I’ll never forget little Nolan, 7, turning to me and saying in the pure eloquence of a child, “Meemaw (he calls me that instead of Aunt), you are so kind.” It made tears well up in my eyes.
And that started me thinking even more about kindness.
It never hurts to be kind, and I’ve found it always benefits the one bestowing the kindness more than the one receiving the kindness. There’s no feeling quite like it – to do something, “just because,” with no reward, and no recognition expected or needed – just the joy of knowing that you made a difference to someone, even if they don’t know your name.
What do you remember when you think of your favorite Christmas or Christmases? For me, the memories of favorite Christmases don’t center on something I got, but instead on a feeling of contentment, peace, of being loved and cared about.
I think Christmas is what you make it – so from now until Dec. 25, I challenge us all to make it one of the best ever.
(And I’d love to hear some of your stories.) Who knows we might discover a better way to live, even after the holidays.
And, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t say this kindness doesn’t have to stop at humans – be kind to the creatures, particularly the pets, that share this world with us. I believe God will bless us for it.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal.