October is one of my favorite months for a variety of reasons. Not only is it beautiful with all the wonderful colors of fall and the fantastic food and festivals, but it marks the beginning of the holiday season for me. After Halloween, I look forward to eating Thanksgiving dinner and watching the parade and then starting to plan and carry out my ideal picture of Christmas. The year my oldest son was born I went to Michael’s and went crazy buying Christmas decorations to transform our tiny apartment into the most cozy Christmas apartment land you’ve ever seen. I went way over-budget and ended up having to return roughly 75% of the decorations so we could buy Christmas presents instead. And then I raided Oma’s unused Christmas decorations (thanks, Oma!) and redecorated. Ridiculous. But it seems every year that my fantasy perfect Christmas makes me go a little crazy with planning details so I can feel like my family is having the perfect Christmas.
And then I show up at the hospital for work.
And the reality of death, sorrow and illness hits me in the face and I am humbled by this broken and flawed world.
It is so easy to forget that the holidays are hard. It’s not just Christmas either. Earlier this year, on the 4th of July, our family lost a beautiful young woman. And that has made all of the successive holidays hard as well. The following week, one of my coworkers passed away…and then another coworker’s daughter…of course I could go on but we all have experienced loss and hardship at many different holidays.
For me, it’s hard to work in healthcare at this time of year. My patients are sick and most of them are not going home to spend Christmas or Thanksgiving or New Year’s with friends and family. It’s easy for me to just go about and do my job and finish my tasks or I could choose to engage. I have recently been challenged by this sermon to be a part of a life-giving people. To give voice to my patients who literally have no voice. To come along side the families that are losing their loved ones and just stand with them. Give them time, give them space. Treat them with respect. And what does it cost me: pride and embarrassment for my vulnerability.
Can we do that this year at the holidays? Can we stand and enter into the world of those around us who are suffering and hurting and be a source of life for them?
Respect for each other
It is so easy to treat others as less. We qualify and quantify others’ lives, compare them to our lives and then judge or misjudge their value. It’s awful and when I realize I’ve just done that, my chest hurts. Like my throat tightens and burns in my chest because I have just devalued a loved being. What if that were my child? husband? parent? grandparent? And I get it. No one is perfect. Some will be valued/judged as less than others by nature of their actions. We will not get along with everyone, but each person is a person and life is valuable.
This season is busy. I am trying to figure out how we will have time for many of the parties and events that happen at this time of year. It’s a month of celebration and it’s easy to be too busy to realize that we are not kind to those around us. Stop for a minute. Think about what is going on right now and smile at the person next to you. Tell them “Hi” and acknowledge they are there. Here are some other great ideas for treating others kindly.
No. I don’t necessarily mean money. Yes, that is one good way to support others. But there are others. Volunteering your time instead of watching a Christmas special or shopping is a great way to invest in the lives of others to bring joy (even more joy than that Christmas special or shopping trip would give you). Take a minute (for real, a full minute) to look at your friend, spouse, child and give them your full attention for that minute. You may be surprised by what giving them that time will do for your heart and theirs.
This holiday season seek out how you can be a life-giver.
How do you plan to engage with those experiencing hurt during this holiday?