Updated: Dec 22, 2021
As the holiday season gets into full swing it can be easy to get overwhelmed and go on autopilot. Let's make sure we're present as we make our preparations and not in a 'holidaze.' This won't be an easy read but it aims to be enlightening and hopefully spark kindness, empathy and solidarity.
Many, many people feel a sense of longing during the holiday season. Perhaps you are one of them. Perhaps this year will feel worse than past years. While all of us may be longing for Covid to finally be over, many will have other deep yearnings.
Some will be experiencing their first holiday season since a loved one has passed. Some will be wishing to feel the joy they felt in their youth. Some will be missing family that is far away. People beloved by others, will be stuck in hospital beds just wanting to go home again. There will be orphans longing for someone to love them. There will be too many who are hungry, just wanting a meal; and too many out in the cold, just wanting a warm place to lay down. An incomprehensible number of people will be wishing to be somewhere safe, away from their abuser(s).
As we are busying about, making our plans and purchases, stuffing our suitcases and bellies, it would be good for us to remember that the most important thing we can pack is our patience.
A sense of belonging
This year, like every year, there will be a multitude of people who don't feel like they belong. A sense of belonging means feeling security and support. It means feeling accepted, included, and part of a group. Again, there are far too many that do not have a solid support system and feel as if they don't belong.
Some folks will literally be mostly or entirely alone. According to Pew Research Center, 27% of Americans over the age of 60 live alone. There are also millions in nursing homes and hospitals. Others will be stuck inside their own minds, battling depression, slipping further into dementia, or enduring other debilitating conditions alone.
Countless others will be in crowded rooms feeling lonesome. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services there were over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States in 2020. Although some may feel included in the celebrations, many will feel like an outsider.
This is a season of gift giving. Lots of people will have an abundance while others go without. It is important to remember that at the end of the day all of the bits and baubles and widgets are just stuff.
We sometimes get so wrapped up in what we have to wrap up that we forget about the people unwrapping the gifts. Things are just things. Don't let yourself get stressed out about that toy you can't find. There is no need to worry about that gaming system you couldn't get your hands on. People are what matters.
The gift of time is one of the best presents that you can give or receive. Take time to slow down and enjoy the precious moments. Play a board game. Make a heARTwork for someone you love. Enjoy a cup of cocoa with a friend. Take in the warmth of a fire. Time is precious, don't spend too much of it chasing things and stuff that won't really matter in the long run.
Don't be long distance
We may still have to social distance in some situations but that doesn't mean we have to totally stay away. Your elderly friends and family will really appreciate your card. Better yet give them a call or set up a porch visit. In the age of e-mail and social media, it is easier than ever to reach out to those who are far away.
Times have been tough for a lot of people, the last two years in particular. Now is a great time to get involved in your local community. If you check around you'll likely find neighbors in need. Some might need your time to help complete a project. There are children who won't have gifts unless some kind stranger selects their name from a tree. There are families depending on food pantries. Donate your time and money to local organizations that fill local needs. Building up the people in your community, and helping neighbors through a rough patch, is a gift that will keep on giving.
Another thing that can help your community is to buy local when you can. Your holiday purchase is a drop in the ocean for a big box store. For the small businesses in your community it can translate to groceries for that week. Your purchase can help the new mom who is sewing while the baby sleeps to buy diapers. A gift certificate from a local restaurant will help them pay their staff this month. Gifting a dance class from a local studio can help the instructor pay their car insurance. Shopping locally is important!
In addition to helping small businesses in your community stay open, right now a bonus is that you don't have to worry about the global and national supply chain issues.
Thank you for reading!
Did this read feel like kind of a downer to you OR did reminding yourself of the wider experiences of humanity help you feel more grateful and grounded?
Can you think of more ways to play with the phonetics of "be long, belong, be longing, belongings?"
Let's continue the discussion in the comments!