For some reason, Christmastime can sometimes feel heavy. I so enjoy spending time with family and giving gifts (yeah, okay and receiving them, too). I feel so blessed this time of year to even have family to celebrate with, and now I can call my husband’s family mine, which just adds to my overflowing fortune.
Yet, I always have a period, just a couple days or even just hours, where I feel down. There’s no singular reason, but I seem to fall into a funk at some point during the holidays. I think it’s something about this time of year—with the cheer and festivities and gatherings—that reminds us of how things could have been… If my parents hadn’t gotten divorced, we wouldn’t need to coordinate two separate celebrations at their respective houses. If my mom’s dad hadn’t died when she was a kid, I could have known him and spent this time of year soaking up his stories and presence.
Do you find yourself longing for what could have been during this season, too? Maybe it’s wishing an estranged family member would come back into your life, or that a loved one who passed away could celebrate just one more Christmas with you. Logically, if I look at my own situation from a birds’ eye view, I know my parents weren’t meant to be together forever and I do love the special celebrations we get to have with each of them. And as for my mom’s dad’s passing, without that, I wouldn’t have the only grandpa that I’ve known on my mom’s side, who my grandma married a while after her first husband passed. He is one of the most kindhearted and precious people in my world, and I treasure our relationship more than most.
I know the way things are is a part of an intricate plan that I only have a partial view of. When I step back and process the gifts in my life, it can become even more apparent how wildly lucky I am. Another thing that helps me feel lifted in those funky times is extending a hand to those who need it. I am privileged to work from home and be married to a good man and have family to be with this time of year, and it isn’t lost on me that not everyone has it so good. Sharing some love and generosity with others is an immediate way to feel better and recognize all the wonderful things you do have.
One thing I plan on doing this holiday season is thanking our trash and mail people with a handwritten card and gift. Nothing major—just a thank you for serving us and something small, like a gift card to a local restaurant. I’ve also read cash and alcohol are well-received (can’t blame ‘em). Those jobs are thankless services that can be easy to take for granted, but my goodness am I glad someone else chose to remove our trash and recycling weekly, and deliver our mail every day, because I sure wouldn’t want to figure that out for myself. I’ve heard taping the gift to the inside of your trashcan or mailbox is a good way for them to find it.
Something else that never fails to deliver some much-needed perspective is volunteering at a local homeless shelter to serve a meal. My family did this a couple years ago over Christmas in Las Vegas, and as much as I felt sad at first for these folks who don’t have homes to go to during the holidays, I became overjoyed to see just how happy and grateful they were to have smiling, friendly faces serving them. Get in touch with your local shelter to see what needs they have this Christmas.
First responders, like police and firemen, also work tirelessly and put their lives in danger to protect us, especially on big holidays. A simple meal to thank your local fire or police station—a big pot of chili or a roast with some easy sides, like mashed potatoes and green beans—can go such a long way. It doesn’t need to be on Christmas or New Year’s, but anytime this season (or anytime in general) is a perfect time to give back to these service men and women.
Thanking troops overseas or veterans is such a special way to give back, too. Organizations like Operation Gratitude make it easy with detailed instructions about what to send and how to get your messages of thanks to the brave people who have chosen to protect us.
Finally, coming up with a plan to give back and contribute to a cause year-round, not just during the holidays, can be so powerful. We have so many goals and resolutions in mind this time of year, so I would ask that you consider donating time or money to any cause that resonates with you. Commit to spending a certain amount of time or your income toward that cause on a regular basis, and not only will you transform the lives of others, but you’ll also upend your own and turn it into a well of giving and gratitude.
What are your favorite ways to give back and contribute to your community during the holidays? I’d love to hear.