To Gather for Christmas

Over the past few days my partner and I have been commenting on the increasing numbers of drivers on the road during times that they aren’t usually there. It’s a reminder to be more careful while traveling because there are more people on the road during these days and also a reminder of why people are on the road, and it’s something that many of us are doing these days, and that’s traveling to gather with friends and family.

People gather during the holidays even if they don’t have gifts to give simply because it’s a time to celebrate having each other and spend time with the people that mean the most to you. There’s just something about all the tradition and stories behind the holidays that makes us reach out to people we don’t always get to be with because of time or distance, not to mention wanting to be with people even if we’re more loners.

There’s something about the holidays that tease us into having conversations we don’t usually have, wanting to fix broken relationships, desiring deeper and more meaningful relationships, thriving on being together, and being a little more bold. Maybe it’s all the festivities around us, maybe it’s the sense of community that you can’t miss because of all the bright lights of decorations, maybe it’s the need to huddle up because of the cooler temperatures, but whatever it is I’m thankful that at least one time of year we’re all encouraged and inspired to come together.

We always say that we should do these types of gatherings more often, but somehow we never get to them. So this holiday season I encourage you to make the most of it. Go ahead and accept all the invitations and create some of your own as well. Celebrate together for all this season is worth so that you have something to tide you over until the next one rolls around. Who will you gather with this year?

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30 Days of Thanksgiving: The Season of Giving

Well, the holiday spending weekend is officially over, I don’t know about you but I was a little disappointed by what was (or rather wasn’t) on sale this past weekend.  It definitely wasn’t a one-and-done shopping weekend for me.  So yes, I’m a little disappointed.  Like many other people I use these shopping sale days to not only buy gifts but buy things I use all year long and appreciate getting at a great discount.  But that’s not how it worked out and so I, and many others, may be doing some bargain hunting over the next few weeks as the holidays approach.

What really surprised me was the lack of Cyber Monday deals this year and the lack of emails about any deals happening.  I got one that suggested I order early so I get the items they sell in time for the holidays, but they didn’t manage to include a coupon code so I put off considering whether I would or would not order from them.

The other surprise from this holiday shopping season kickoff was that we’re at 6pm EST and already today I’ve gotten over 300 emails today.  For what? Giving Tuesday.  Started in 2012 it’s a way to encourage people to give to non profits who aren’t in the spotlight for most of the year. I donate to organizations every month so I don’t need today as a reminder, but I do look to see if organizations that I don’t support regularly but follow closely are doing any kind of giving match.

Ultimately the holiday season, whether you’re religious or not, celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, is about giving.  It’s important to give to those who mean the most to us, but for many of us without the non-profits of the world we’d be lost and the world wouldn’t be as special a place as it is.  I give monthly because these organizations are making a difference in the world in ways I simply can’t.  So today yes, some of the money I didn’t spend over the weekend I will be donating to organizations that are making a difference in the world, helping them spread hope a little further this holiday season and in the year to come.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Do The Right Thing

Over the past few days an incredible story has been shared, going viral even. It’s great when it’s the good stories going viral and not the stories of hate. The story goes something like this: a bus hit a parked car and drove off. A little girl witnessed it, went home, wrote a note and put the note under the car’s wipers. The car’s owner came back, saw the damage, saw the note and was able to reach out to the bus company and is in the process of getting his car repaired while he drives around in a rental supplied by the bus company. The story ends with the girl receiving a commendation from her school for her community service. You can read the whole story here.

I love this story because it’s proof that people still do the right thing. No, the bus driver didn’t do the right thing, but the school girl did, and she didn’t have to do anything because she wasn’t really involved in what happened. But she knew that she could help right a wrong, doing something as simple as writing a note.

Yes, sometimes doing the right thing is a big effort, requiring a lot of time and financial investment. Sometimes the wrongs are big wrongs and it takes a lot of time and effort to heal from that. But sometimes all it takes is something really small to turn the tide in the right direction. I’m thankful that someone taught that girl to do the right thing.  She gave the driver a peace and answers that he would not have had otherwise.  It may seem like a small thing, but if you’ve ever been in his shoes you know that it means the world.

The same is true with giving thanks.  Sometimes the simple words “thank you” can make all the difference.  Have you made a point to do something simple for someone else lately?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: thankful for gifts

“Give thanks in all circumstances. Not for pain and suffering itself, but for the knowledge that God is with us in it, and that God has promised to use it for our good. Develop the habit of giving thanks for what is, rather than lamenting what is not. Look upon your life as a gift, with wonder and awe.” Br. David Vryhof

This quote took my by surprise when I read it because it starts with a sentence that is very well known, one that is said in spiritual communities as a way to encourage and strengthen us for the challenges we’re facing. It’s an attitude check for everyone, spiritual or not, one that encourages us to focus more on the things we are blessed with and not the things that hurt.

But then the quote goes on to say that we don’t have to feel like we are trying to find something to be thankful for among the challenges of our life, but rather that we should focus on thanking God for being there with us through those challenges. It’s why we take the time to be there for others when they’re going through dark times, and find comfort in having someone with us, even if they’re not saying or doing anything but being there.

The quote then ends with an encouragement to see life as a gift, which given what the quote has already talked about, is kind of like those Christmas or Hanukkah gifts you get that are really ugly or really not what you want, but the person gifting you is all excited about them. You know, those sweaters from an aunt or grandmother that are completely out of style or scratchy, or that gift that you get year in and year out that you re-gift or share with friends or donate because you’ve gotten so many of them. Sometimes the gift you get isn’t really what you want, and you have to accept that along with the gifts you do want.

So as we head into this holiday gifting season, be thankful for the gifts you get, those you are excited about and those that are requisite, and especially for the people who thought of you and wanted to bless you in that way.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Thankful for Community

Every day whether we know it or not we’re surrounded by a community of other people.  These people have different passions, skills, talents, abilities and knowledge than we do.  We’re reliant on them and their abilities for so many things. If some people just chose not to show up to work for a week we would quickly see that impact on society.  Our technology would have issues, our roads would have issues, our stores would be empty of products, no one would be making our coffees, no one would be cooking our meals at the restaurant, or no one would be teaching our kids.

If people didn’t show up for work it also means that we would have more responsibility and have to do more for ourselves.  We might have to figure out how to install our own cable boxes, grow our own vegetables, catch our own fish, fix our own stoves, go to the physical store for all our needs, create our own clothes, or fix our own broken bones.

I’m really thankful that that’s not the case, there are people who have passions and knowledge in things that I don’t, so they can do what they do best and I can do what I do best.  I agree that we can be all things for all people when it comes to things like love, treating each other with consideration and creating a better future, but as far as skills, sales and knowledge I don’t believe we should try to be all things for all people.

Today I encourage you to be thankful for and celebrate the skills and abilities you have.  Be proud of what you can do and do know.  If you want to pick up a new skill you certainly can, but don’t feel like you can’t rely on others, just like they rely on you.  Who are you thankful for that has skills you don’t?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Sharing and Caring

Today I am inspired by the words of W. Clement Stone: “If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.”

One of the best parts of having blessings are being able to share those blessings with others. Yes, it’s great to have blessings for yourself, but when you can share those blessings with others and bless them too, it makes it more special and valuable. The same is true for being thankful. Yes, it’s important to be personally thankful and spend time reflecting on and being thankful for the blessings you have, but it’s also important to share and pass that thanks on to others.

One of the things I hear from people again and again is how under-appreciated they feel at work. Yes, some people would like to have more money or different/better benefits, but when all is said and done what they really want is to be appreciated for the work they do. The same is true in our relationships, we like to be appreciated and be told that our significant other recognizes the hard work we do for them, for the relationship and for the family.

And just as you should share the blessings and the thanks with others, when burdens arise they should be shared too. This morning many of us woke to the news that there had been another deadly shooting, this time in California. In these situations sometimes there are answers and sometimes there are just more mysteries. Whether there are answers or mysteries it’s hard to deal with the death or injury of a loved one as well as process the idea that there are people out in the world who choose violence rather than supporting the community and/or asking for help.

As we head into a new day I encourage you to share. Share your needs, share your hurts, share your heart, share your love, share your thanksgiving. What will you share today?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: thankful for opportunities

Yesterday was Election Day, and today brought lots of political-related news for us to digest.  I’m not someone who you would say follows politics by any stretch of the imagination, it’s rare that I can name more than a few of the people who currently hold political offices around the country. That’s not to say that I’m not interested in what goes on in our politics, I definitely follow the issues and sign petitions and vote on a regular basis.

Voting is an opportunity, a blessing that not everyone has.  Being on the ballet, let alone elected, is also another opportunity.  And thinking about these opportunities reminded me that our lives are full of opportunities.  We’re so blessed in so many ways in 2018.  Even some of the poorest countries and citizens of the world have access to cell phones, advanced resource-tapping technology and education that was never available in such numbers decades ago.  And more people than ever have a say in who’s elected and the laws we’re governed by.

It’s all these opportunities and advances that give me hope that we might actually solve some of the world’s problems like access to water, safe homes and sustainable food, not to mention poverty, malnutrition and diseases.  That each new Thanksgiving will bring with it new things to be thankful for, not just the things that we’re, rightly so, thankful for each year.  New opportunities, new friendships, new family members, new medical advances that save or extend lives, and new reasons to celebrate and be thankful for that you’re alive each day, and every Thanksgiving you get to spend at work, with yourself, with friends, and/or with family.  What opportunities are you thankful for today?