If you’ve read some of my other posts about Mindfulness, you would know that one of the keys is living in the moment, but, as well, being grateful. This time of year, whether spending alone, with friends, or a special someone, we have much to be grateful for, including even the generosity of others. Despite the frenzy of “Black Friday”, people watch until Christmas, in more than malls. I want you to see how people hold out to get the people they care about the totally perfect gift. It’s truly an amazing site if you just tune into it. I’m that person, both the observer and that particular type of shopper.
With the mixed combination of ages of all of the kids in my family this year, I have decided to foster their creativity in different ways (age appropriately). I am grateful that their mother (niece and nephew’s mother) and I can have enough of civilized conversation to make the children happy (they’re my brother’s children, but he never gives me any hints about what to get them). The older children are my brother’s stepchildren so their mom helps with that. The oldest “kid” I have to buy for likes guns and booze. How hard can that be? 😉 But we also have a new addition to the family this year: the oldest “kid” has a girlfriend with two children. That means I get to buy for them as well. (He’s way better at hints of what to get get, btw.)
Since we are under the spell of COVID-19 for the holidays this year, I want you to practice being grateful for the small things. Waking up in the morning is a true blessing because, it’s my personal belief (and you don’t have to share it), that God, like myself, is a fan of free will. You wake up in the morning and, every single day, you have choices to make. You can do good things or bad. It’s completely up to you to create who you are and pursue your own happiness.
I challenge you to work up from gratitude for waking up to three things you’re grateful for each day. If you’re not someone who believes in God, then just say them out loud at night, you don’t have to pray to someone to be grateful. Being grateful is about you creating opportunities throughout the day to make someone smile or give a compliment to a stranger. Be grateful for who’s in your life (and TELL them, you idiot! Waking up is not a guarantee!)
Even if the cheerfulness of others bothers you at this season, Scrooge, be grateful that they are willing to share it with others, even though their lives might not be so great at the moment. Surprise! Others are human beings with real problems too! Some of them, much worse than yours. Return the cheer with a smile and be grateful that another human being is willing to share something that they truly don’t have to give.
Again, despite the cloud of COVID-19 surrounding the year, I want you to appreciate the art of simply giving. Go to a church (no, you don’t have to attend the service), ask around at work, and open your eyes to see around you who needs help this Christmas for their children. For me, without the children, the holidays lose their magic a bit. If you’ve ever read my blogs about relationships, you know about the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I can tell you that my strongest expression of love is gift giving. Finding something that brings out that inner child or lights up someone’s face (even if it’s something, silly like a pair of E.T. socks because your mother took your older sister to see that in the theaters when she was little and she totally freaked out).
You may not have believed in Santa for a long time, but I still do. Sometimes, Santa couldn’t make it to our house, but sometimes, as I aged, I got to BE Santa for other people and it was a far more amazing thing. It is genuinely fun to shop for someone else knowing that their child will believe that something magical happened that year.
One year, about a year or so after my dad passed away (when we were all adults, before my brother had children), I played Santa for my immediate family. I took the meager amount of money I had to my name and went to the Dollar store so that my family could have a bit of cheer. They were so happy. And it made me so happy. And I felt the giving spirit of my father flowing through my Christmas veins.
Let me put this in perspective: When I was in my teens, my Dad passed on the Santa spirit to me. He was Bipolar and had recently “been on vacation” in the hospital (that was what he jokingly called it) with a woman who could afford nothing for her toddler to open that year for Christmas. Once he was released, he and I went shopping with the bit of money that we had and bought her child some presents. We showed up unannounced with these gifts and, to see the look on her face was enough to satiate 100 Christmases. She reached over to her tree and grabbed an ornament with three African American kneeling angels back to back. I cried probably my first tears of joy on the way home. After my father died, we lost track of that ornament (although it is my belief that one of the other siblings has it without knowing what it means to me), but I’ll never forget it.
Another time, my sister and I played Secret Santa to a family she worked whose mother she worked with and filled up an entire laundry cart with gifts for her and the children. She thought that ladies from church brought it to drop off at night so she wouldn’t know. That was fine by us because, here’s the thing, giving isn’t about you. It’s about the receiver. If you expect something in return, 1) you’re not giving, you’re holding onto one end of a business transaction and 2) hold your breath all you like on that one because you my not even get a “thank you”. Giving, in itself, however, is not a selfless gesture at all. We do get something in return when we give to others, whether we remain nameless or not. Our heart that was about three sizes too small will grow and grow. And the gifts will grow and scatter from there. If you could be a little fly that follows around a simple smile, you would see just how infectious some things can be. The Spirit of Giving works in the same way.
I didn’t sign up to be a therapist for the money (FYI: them there fancy clothes come from Kohl’s, Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. ). I did it because I thought if I could make just a little bit of difference then, I would have answered my calling. However, God’s got something else in mind He has yet to reveal. Regardless of where I end up or what I end up doing, I’ll never have money. I’ve already determined that. I will try as I can to set money aside as a trust for my niece and nephew, but I’m not the rich Auntie so…not sure if that’s going to happen, but I do know that over-tipping, little gifts, paying it forward, big gift giving, LIVING (oh, how I want to just LIVE, like take a vacation, not great at that by the way), etc.
Hopefully, someday, adopt some older children that I can give a home and support system to while they are allowed to follow their dreams. I never had that and always wanted to adopt anyhow. Why not? Older kids get written off because they’re so close to “aging out”, but they have no support. I can’t spend one dollar of money in Heaven or Hell so why bother trying to “take it with me”, as my Dad used to say?
Here are some ways to give big and to give small throughout the year and at the holidays:
I hope you see the pattern that is somewhat emerging here. Giving isn’t about money. It’s an investment in human beings that requires time, compassion, love, attention, affection, and appreciation. Being grateful is just a side effect of most of these cases, but it’s only in making others grateful that we can find true gratification.
If you can stand it, I have one last story for you. One year, I had just lost a friend to suicide after the holidays and a woman left me a $20 tip (a hundred years ago waiting tables). I remember holding onto her for dear life and sobbing like a baby because one of the worst things had just happened in my life and this random woman, completely unaware, did this gesture of kindness for me. The reason, she said simply, “I waited tables around the holidays when I was young and I know how slow it can be.” She had no idea what she’d just done for me. She’d made me feel safe somehow in a world where everything was off it’s axis. Ma’am, if you’re out there, thank you.
**Yesterday was Christmas so I’m a little late in publishing, but, The Art of Giving should last year-round. Those suggestions I’ve made to find ways to give, exist all year round. People need things always, not just at Christmas. I hope that you had a Happy Holiday like I did.
All pics featured, including title pic, utilize FreePik (title pic created with Canva, as well)
Comments, Please! Tell us what makes you feel grateful! We want to hear about stories of giving and receiving and how they have made you feel grateful. Thanks for the read!