I live in a city that enjoys three months of each season. With Christmas comes the winter chill and white stuff we dream about as kids.
This year things seemed different. The weather turned cold and it snowed a bit but the mailman delivered fewer cards than he used to. Some who used to opted to use Facebook, emailing, or texting instead of finding the time and taking effort, and dealing with the logistics and expense of sending holiday cards. This change in expression habits seems a diluted merchandising of the sentiment but times have changed and so have millions.
Even people at the mall seemed different, as though they were there out of self-centered necessity rather than happily shopping and sharing the spirit of the season. Parking lot navigation was, to put it kindly, rude and selfish, with too many concerned about butting their way in or out of spaces and lots than kindly making way.
Maybe these new behaviors stem from the lives we’re living or the retail bastardization of the shopping experience. Whatever the reason, when the 26th has dawned and the Christmas gifts have been opened — fading the uptick in Christmas’s emotional lift into the sudden past — many are forced to reenter reality and the post-holiday blues.
Sometimes it’s money but sometimes it isn’t. Nor should it be, since we cannot buy our way to happiness but certainly can spend our way to sadness. Here are seven suggestions to carry the true meaning of the holiday season into the new year and beyond.
- Contact more people. Just because Christmas is over does not mean we cannot make quick phone calls or drop quick notes in the mailbox to those we think about but forgot to tell. Through January 25th a postcard costs 33 cents to mail, a letter 46. Few better investments exist. Rates go up on the 26th, to 34 cents and 49. A letter overseas will cost $1.15. When you think about it, touching a life so inexpensively is a wonderful thing to do.
- Remain grateful for what we have in life and worry less about we don’t. Doldrums come from ruminating about what we had and lost or do not have at all. Since we find in life what we look for, only allow yourself to think about the good. Ban the rest from your mind. Our worst days are heaven on earth to billions who will never know such riches. Never lose sight of that.
- Maximize your life today and be excited about what lies ahead tomorrow. The holidays are often a time of reflection. We look back, which is fine for the short term, but life is best lived in the moment and with optimism for tomorrow. Live for now and then, rather than stewing over how things used to be.
- Be nice. Nice is free. There are a lot of hurt people out there. Pain is often invisible but kindness never is. Kindness is magic in the lives of those who need a boost.
- Stow your baggage. With reflection comes happiness and guilt. Regrets create no positive gain and we cannot change the past. We can learn from it and try to atone for past transgressions, but none of us is perfect so it’s important not to beat ourselves up over something we might do differently if life gave us do-overs. Let the baggage go.
- Help someone who needs it. Whether it’s a stranger, a friend dealing with sorry, or a needy organization in your community, a helping hand is always welcome. I often say, “We all take turns in the barrel. How many hands reach in to help us out when our turn comes is exactly equal to the number of times we have reached in to help others.” This is a wonderful time of the year to voluntarily reach in.
- Mean it when you say “Thank you.” Thanking others with an ink pen is far more powerful than with a keyboard but whatever it takes to get the job done – do it. These days a postcard or handwritten note in the mailbox is a rarity. Written words are tangible keepsakes. Doubly so is one that makes us feel special. Strive to be an agent of positive good wishes.
As this year ends and another begins, nothing says we must wait 12 months to next Christmas before expressing our gratitude toward others who enrich our lives. So too are we empowered to demonstrate the power of caring.
All of us face challenges but few of us would trade our own problems for those of billions less fortunate. Live each day accordingly. Random acts of kindness can change the world.
It’s up to us to prove it.
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