As if this year hasn't been stressful enough, get ready, here come the holidays.
Some of us Americans have been out of work for months and are struggling to keep food on the table. Many of the people who are waiting in lines at food pantries are people who have worked their whole lives and never dreamed they'd be waiting in line for food.
We're stressed about the pandemic. We're stressed about the election. We're stressed about the quality of education our kids are getting. We're stressed about being able to pay the bills.
Before we start stressing about Christmas gifts, I want to suggest that we all take a breath and think about the most significant gifts.
Many of us would be hard pressed to remember the gifts we opened last year. We usually remember whether or not there was a gift, but the details get lost in the discarded wrapping paper, bags, and bows. But there are those gifts that stand out—that are precious to us and that remain dear to us for the rest of our lives.
Gifts that express love are the most treasured gifts. And I'm not just referring to diamonds and gold.
So what are these gifts? As I look around my house, I see these little treasures everywhere. There is the handwritten, framed Scripture that a high school friend made for me. There is the beautiful portrait of Jesus that one of my dearest friends painted for me. There are crafts created by family members, pictures given to me by friends who captured a special moment, needlepoint Christmas ornaments made by another dear friend, countless priceless treasures made by the children in my life, and an afghan crocheted for me by the mother of one of my girlfriends before dementia stole her memory.
There are the many Christmas plates that arrived containing homemade cookies. The cookies were quickly devoured, but the plates remain as reminders of the people who cared enough to go to the work of making homemade cookies.
Then there are the written treasures—to me, these are the most precious gifts of all. I have saved every note, card, and letter ever given to me by family and friends. These are true treasures because they originated in the heart of another and were written specifically to me. These are not form letters sent to a hundred people, but personal notes giving a word of encouragement, affirmation, observation, or suggestion. I pull them out and re-read them when I'm feeling down. As the years go by, I find that some of the people who wrote these notes are no longer around. That makes these treasures, these evidences of love, all the more priceless.
The power of the written word cannot be overstated. When you give someone our heartfelt thoughts in writing, they can read and re-read what you write over and over again. The ink on the paper will last longer than the best memory. A sincere written sentiment captures feelings that aren’t articulated in the average conversations throughout the year. Words of love are beautiful, uplifting, and restorative.
Words that remind us who we are can be exceptionally powerful. The bumps and bruises of life can leave us with a feeling of defeat. This especially tumultuous year has left many people in a cloud of sadness, depression, and even hopelessness. So to be reminded of who we really are can lift the cloud and let the light shine through.
Imagine receiving a written note from someone who tells of being inspired by your character traits of resilience, courage, determination, kindness, or whatever it is that makes you YOU. A note like that can be just the boost that’s needed to lift our heads, put our shoulders back, and to look forward to a brighter future. Add to that a sincere expression of love, and you have a gift that encourages and restores.
This year let's set aside the typical concerns about what to give and how much to spend, and let's give from our hearts. Let's put our feelings on paper, letting others know that we love them, we care about them, we admire them, and that we're here for them. If you prefer, bake cookies, paint something, or create a unique craft item.
Whatever you choose to do, don't concern yourself with how your heartfelt gifts are received. If someone is disappointed because you didn’t spend more money, that’s his or her problem. Christmas shouldn't be a time of pressured obligation, but a time of celebration of relationships with God, family, friends, neighbors, and everyone else in our lives.
Let’s use the circumstances of this wild year as a good reason to get back to what really matters--to get back to giving love and kindness and reminding people how awesome they are.
Rhonda Sciortino, author of 30 Days To Happiness (featured on Ellen DeGeneres' show and included in her Kind Box), used the coping skills from her chaotic childhood to create personal and professional success. Through her speaking, writing, media appearances, and Live, Love, Survive and Thrive YouTube show and podcast she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to a their real success. Rhonda's big, hairy, audacious goal is for everyone to put their love into action.