The fast-approaching holiday season brings with it (for me, anyway) a growing to-do list that has me scratching my head about how it is all going to get done. Family visits, decorating, shopping, cooking and the like should bring joy and peace, but I know they will more likely bring stress.
My kids will be wired for the entire month and I will do my best to be patient between buying teacher gifts, making holiday crafts, and balancing the “normal” calendar with social outings and shopping trips. My daughter started playing holiday music weeks ago and I could feel my shoulders tightening under the stress.
But as so often happens in life, I found myself in a place that provided just what I needed when I needed it. No, I didn’t win the lottery (although that would have been nice too). I was reminded with such clarity about what is really important.
I sit on the board of a nonprofit organization that, among many other things, helps the less fortunate in the community with housing, food and support services to end the cycle of poverty and homelessness. During a recent event, I had the opportunity to hear from someone who had directly benefited from one of our programs.
While I’m sure it was difficult to talk about (especially to the crowd that had gathered), this man explained some of the circumstances that landed him and his wife in a situation where they had no stable housing. Not only was he fortunate to benefit from a more permanent home, he was given additional support that allowed him and his wife to focus on the future. They could move forward, because the generosity of the programs offered (made possible by the efforts of the community to fund and supply resources).
He was grateful to have security and appreciative for items like the bag of food that they received to prepare a Thanksgiving holiday meal. Every effort to support them was helping them look to the future – something that he and his wife were struggling to do when they didn’t know where they would sleep from night to night.
It is very easy to focus on the negative. As I witness terrorism events around the world that leave me heartbroken and anxious; as I read news reports of criminals and their despicable acts; and even as I see evidence of the darker sides within my own community; it becomes easy to get caught up in a cycle of negativity and pessimism. A dark place where the holiday season is a stress and not a joy.
But then I was eloquently reminded by this man and his wife, that goodness does exist in every facet of life. It has a way of lifting us up and propelling us forward – as a person and as a community. Once accepting the help they needed and being able to look ahead, they are paying it forward in so many ways. They are sharing their story. They are helping support the program with repairs and labor. They are doing whatever they can to contribute in ways big and small.
I walked away from the evening feeling inspired and grateful. I’m proud to be part of a community that cares, to have the fellowship of people who share a commitment to making life better. We’re all richer for the experience. Most importantly, I was reminded that giving back is the greatest gift.
I intend to add a few more calendar dates (of the community service variety) to the holiday season for me and my family. It is guaranteed to get us in the spirit.
Here’s to a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving. I wish you all a blessed holiday season.