Editor's note: This has been previously published.
There’s something about the holiday season that inspires exceptional behavior. Sadly, the recent year has seen a series of disasters, tragic behaviors and intra-societal enmity stretching the limits of humanity. Many wonder what will happen next.
People need not give into anger’s downward spiral edging ever closer to that which we despise. There is a better path that will allow each of us to have a positive impact. It doesn’t matter whether we reverence the holidays as Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas or as a secular celebration. It’s time to use the season to begin a more uplifting trend. I challenge each of us to give five much-needed gifts this holiday season and begin to change our world.
A disturbing trend has developed that glamorizes shutting down those with whom we disagree. We have seen this through the bigotry of labeling, the criminality of violent resistance and protest and the counterfeit intellectuality that devalues based on source with little examination of content. A difference of opinion is neither hate nor phobia. Giving offense is not always racism or bigotry. Supporting a different team does not make us enemies. We are all imperfect humans with feelings, hopes and dreams.
Choose to take a step toward civility by respecting those with whom you disagree. Be more courteous and tolerant. Take a moment and listen to understand rather than refute. Extend a helping hand to those with whom you would not normally associate. Our country’s greatness is based not on the rhetoric of politicians. Rather, it finds its strength because its citizens choose to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do.
Has anyone noticed that society has become obsessed with entitlement? Is our livelihood, prosperity, education, health and happiness owed to us without effort? Gratitude for what we have includes a willingness to do our part. Decide this season to notice and look beneath the kind acts that bring light to our sometimes difficult lives. These acts may be significant. But more often they are found in a smile, a warm welcome or caring arm around the shoulder. Share your gratitude by expressing it. Recognize a parent’s tireless service, a child’s attempt to make wise choices or a stranger’s random kindness. Then pass it on. Every kind act is an opportunity to begin a movement. Experience the peace that envelopes the lives of both giver and recipient.
The story of the Good Samaritan presents a timeless parable. He begins his life-saving act with two simple steps. He first saw and then had compassion on him. Our world seems to glorify passion about careers, interests and pursuits. We see enough passion in the excesses of societal behavior used to justify rudeness, offense and intimidation. We need more compassion. Like the Samaritan, it begins with awareness, then reaching out. Human suffering need not be obvious to be present. To give this gift, take time to care and act.
Slow your pace, add flexibility to a self-important schedule and become more aware. Enrich you own life by uplifting a soul, bringing a smile to a careworn face or hope to a life on the edge. Power resides in an act of compassion. It may make a difference for a day or impact lives for generations. Others have done it for us. Now is our opportunity to pass it forward.
There are in each life offenses that stand above all others. These have wounded our hearts so deeply we feel justified carrying them forever. Choosing to bear such burdens does not change history nor does it affect the perpetrator’s behavior. Such wounds fester our souls until the bitterness changes into that which we disdain. Forgiving mends fences, dissipates oppressive atmospheres and sets positive precedents.
Sometimes the gift cannot be given in person or will not be accepted. That’s not the point. Forgiveness refreshes the soul of the giver. When sincerely extended it has the power to set the relationship on a new course. It takes courage and produces a humbled spirit in the giver. Forgive another this season. You will be amazed at the change it makes in both your lives.
The final gift is one you must give yourself before it may be given to others. Why? Because this gift has impact in others through your example and who you are becoming. Perhaps you have thrown the concept of a higher being to the curb as impractical. Maybe you can’t accept God’s existence given all the terrible stuff going on. Others seem willing to acknowledge a higher power but question whether he is interested, approachable or aware. A world of chaos, mind-numbing natural disasters and broadcast examples of man’s inhumanity toward man are all reasons for harboring doubts. Such fatalistic attitudes feed the expanding sinkhole of skepticism and hopelessness.
Each of us can take steps to bring a more uplifting lifestyle to our sphere of influence. If you have found yourself facing away from God for any reason, give him another chance this holiday season. It will require sincerity and a heart willing to receive whatever answer comes. Then exercise a test of the spiritual scientific method to know for yourself. Read from your chosen holy text, ponder and pray with real intent to know the author. Ask, “Is this true?” “Are you there?” “Do you know me?” As you sincerely search, your personal answers will come. It will change perspective, calm the spirit and strengthen your ability to endure. Your re-energized faith will flow through you to all you touch, restoring hope, mending relationships and changing lives.
Giving such gifts will be met with surprise, appreciation and ultimately a desire to do the same for others. That is the special spirit of the holiday season. Our gifts may not be profound. But accumulated small acts make the biggest difference anyway. Extend it throughout the year and watch the miracles flow.