Thanksgiving is over, the beautiful fall colors have been replaced with red and green and twinkling lights. We have entered a new season, the season of Christ’s birth.
The namesake of this holiday is so often forgotten, pushed aside or replaced by a jolly old man in a red suit, congested malls and holiday specials you can’t afford to miss.
We are bombarded with ringing bells asking for donations, food bank requests and impersonal checks made out to special organizations.
But wait – Christmas is more than mulled wine or eggnog flavored with nutmeg and cinnamon. It is more than concerts and festivities and Christmas shopping.
Perhaps more important than anything, Christmas is a time when we can make a special effort to reach out in more personal ways to those who are hurting. A few minutes time, a empathetic listening ear and understanding can be huge to those who may be suffering from a loss or rejection, illness or disastrous financial downturn.
When I was closing my son’s affairs after his death, I had an unexpected conversation with a member of a small bank where my son had an account. After the shock of learning that my son had died, she shared with me a time when my son had reached out to her when she was going through a tough time.
Sensitive to the needs of others, he was aware of the sadness and unhappiness that couldn’t be hidden. A few moments of time, a caring and listening exchange of words that offered understanding, hope and encouragement had made a huge benefit at a time when she needed it the most.
We never know the impact we leave on the lives of others when we reach out with compassion, caring and understanding.
Reaching out can be as simple as acknowledging how someone is doing. “You look like you are having a tough day.” Sometimes, it is simply taking a few minutes to listen without judgment, preconceived assumptions or emotional platitudes. A simple touch on shoulder or arm, or squeeze of the hand can be incredibly uplifting. An invitation for coffee or to join with others in group activities can make us feel we are important in the scheme of things.
Whether during the holidays, or mid-year, reaching out can have both immediate and long term benefits. It is not just for the Christmas season. When you reach out be genuine and sincere. Honor and respect another’s privacy. People don’t always want to talk about their pain. Make it clear they do not need to respond – you are simply acknowledging an awareness. Whether individuals return conversation or not, what is important is that you showed in some small way that you cared. It is telling them they are not alone and opens the door for sharing if they choose.
I believe when we are sensitive to others and reach out, even in tiny ways, we are blessed as well. It takes so little time – so little effort and yet can be so profound.
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