The holidays mean something different to everyone. Some people feel joy and anticipation as Christmas is approaching. Others feel sadness and dread and cannot wait for January to come. When I grew up, Christmas was our favorite time of the year. Time was spent with family, where we baked cookies and made meals special to this time of year. Christmas morning our house was filled with presents under a beautiful tree decorated with homemade ornaments. The room was filled with endless smiles, giving hugs and a deep sense of appreciation.
I am mindful that my holiday experience was not that for others. For some, the holidays are a time of sadness. They are a reminder of an unhappy childhood that did not include the celebration of holidays. They can be a trigger of difficult memories. For some, it is a period of grief and sadness from a loved one who passed away. Especially during these hard economic times, the holidays can represent financial stress. Some have lost their jobs and are trying to figure out how to explain to their children why they did not have gifts under the tree.
For some families, this is their baby’s first Christmas, but for others have tried for years with no success, it’s another holiday without one. Some are celebrating in their very first home, while others are homeless. So while I may be joyful throughout the holiday season, I am mindful that others are in pain. It is important for us all to consider what this time may be for others and show support in a way that is meaningful to them. For those who do not feel joyful this time of year, help and emotional support may be welcomed, while others would appreciate a respect for their privacy and space.
I have spent the last 20 years working with people with developmental disabilities. This community has the same variation on love for the holidays, some celebrate while others dread its arrival. What I found early on in my career is that many who were not connected to family did not know of holiday celebrations. Some never had a tree or presents and never made Christmas cookies. The people who have been fortunate enough to work with them have brought joy, new traditions and holiday celebrations to their lives. Sharing the love of the holidays and improving the life of another is such a gift. My organization recently hosted door decorating at one of our apartment buildings. While many came to the common room and loved participating, there were two people who were uninterested. When the staff talked about convincing them to join, I asked them to consider why those two individuals did not want to decorate. I asked, “Is it about the holiday? Is it about something from their past? Is it about being in a crowd of others?” I wanted my employees to understand that we cannot always assume that everyone feels the same about holidays and should take a moment to consider why.
This year the holiday season will be different for everyone; it will be a year unlike any other. For some, they have been given the gift of time with their family. For others, it has been a time of loneliness and isolation. I hope during this time of instability and uncertainty, you find peace, joy and compassion for those around you. Be kind to others. Offer help where you can, and do not forget to take a moment to count your blessings, for life on earth is short.