OPINION – Maybe times are tougher this year. Or maybe social media just makes it easier to put our hearts out there for others to see.
Either way, it’s been mildly surprising this year to see how many friends and acquaintances have expressed difficulty in finding the Christmas spirit. Most of those who’ve voiced their concern seem to be genuinely expressing puzzlement rather than simply indulging in self pity.
I’ve been in their shoes before and can appreciate what it feels like to be disconnected from a celebration that everyone else appears to be enjoying. A person doesn’t have to be drowning in despair to recognize that he or she is missing something important.
Instead of chasing after the Christmas spirit in the hopes of catching it before the celebration ends, I recommend a slightly different approach to regaining the hope, wonder, and joy of the season. Let it find us instead.
This doesn’t require a wholesale overhaul of who we are or what we believe. It does require a minor adjustment in how we choose to appreciate the world around us.
One suggestion for helping the Christmas spirit find us is to focus on family.
For many of us, our early memories of Christmas are among the most cherished. As children, we tended to hyperfocus on the tree, the lights, the presents, and the seemingly endless treats. That’s understandable. But at some point, we come to realize that the trappings are not the true substance of what we’re celebrating.
As I watch my family grow, I’m finding that our time spent together is becoming more and more precious. Whether we’re watching a movie, taking a walk, listening to Christmas music, building gingerbread houses, or creating personalized Christmas ornaments, the fact that we’re doing it together brings Christmas alive.
Family traditions have played a strong role in how we celebrate Christmas. Some have been passed down through the generations to become an integral part of our holidays. For instance, homemade pizza on Christmas Eve was a favorite treat that my mother cooked for us every year when I was growing up.
My family has continued this tradition and added some of our own. Even simple traditions can create stronger family bonds. Loving others and being loved in return adds depth and meaning to the holidays.
The Christmas spirit also tends to find us when we focus on appreciating the good in others. There is far more goodness around us than we are led to believe. A person who makes the conscious effort to look for it will be astonished at the many acts of selflessness that surround them.
The few sad individuals who live to spread unhappiness are generally loud relative to their numbers. On the other hand, the people who live to uplift and improve the lives of those around them aren’t typically attention-seekers.
Often, their acts of kindness and selflessness are deliberately done out of the spotlight. This means that, outside of those they are helping, a bystander would have to be paying close attention to ever notice their kindness.
For example, Dr. Jim Hughes is a dentist in Southern Idaho. My mother worked for him as a secretary for many years. When my father passed away 25 years ago, Dr. Hughes kindly gave my mother a generous Christmas bonus each year thereafter.
Even though my mother has been retired for 15 years, this truly great man quietly continues to pay her a yearly Christmas bonus. I’m certain that she is not the only recipient of his generosity.
For me, it is impossible not to be moved by this man’s example of selfless regard for others. Each year as my mother expresses her gratitude for the goodness of Dr. Hughes, I feel the Christmas spirit in its truest sense. His influence has impacted my children as well.
A few years ago, my daughter Brooke was determined to help other families in need. As a 14-year-old, she worked and saved up $100 of her own money and then took it to the bishop of our congregation and asked him to make sure it got to a family that needed help.
I understood the tears in his eyes as he accepted her gift and promised her that it would be used to help others. Her example was a beautiful reminder to me of the joy we invite into our lives by giving of ourselves.
We should be especially aware of opportunities to include those whose families are far away or who are estranged from their loved ones in our Christmas festivities. Hearts that are weighed down can be lightened by knowing that we genuinely care about them and their happiness.
Whenever we are willing to share the Spirit of Christmas with others, it always manages to find us as well.
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- Toys for Tots delivers Christmas blessings with community support; STGnews Videocast
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Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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