I don’t know how I’m saying this already, but Merry Christmas, everybody. It seems like we were JUST celebrating the holiday last year, and right when you think you have all the time in the world to get ready – BOOM! – you wake up to half-eaten cookies next to the fireplace and presents under and around the tree.
Ahh, Christmas. It’s different now then it was 20 years ago. I don’t know if that’s perspective or pop culture, but I’m pretty sure it’s a little of both. These days you get decorations after Halloween and music before Thanksgiving, and people (including myself) roll their eyes at anyone who tries to play carols before the November turkey is carved. But through all the world and life changes, there’s something bigger that’s still there, and it hits everyone in different ways at different times.
There’s the nostalgia factor that can come from the most random trigger of the senses and take you back to Christmas past better than any DeLorean or holiday ghost. There’s a warmth and a glow around this nostalgia and this day that’s hard to find the rest of the year, and even sometimes around the holidays, but it’s THERE, and it can floor you at any moment. I was driving earlier and heard “Jingle Bell Rock” on the radio, a song my grandfather would play on loop Christmas mornings in Gastonia as the family came in for dinner and presents. It was a different version, but I found myself in that den with the red-orange glow of their old-school Christmas lights on the tree. I could see Granddaddy sitting in his worn-out green chair with a look of pride and contentment that only someone who has lived through the trials of a life of hard work and raising family could have and understand. Grandma will play the song on the stereo for everyone tomorrow, and that warmth and that light will be felt again.
Christmas. Have you felt it yet this year? Age and work and the ways of the world can make it SO hard to see sometimes. Things are scarier than EVER. My biggest fear around this time of year used to be waking up with a lump of coal in my stocking (of course, I was always a good kid, so this never happened). Now the fears come from health and politics and MONEY and LIFE and where to go and what to do. Simple KINDNESS is a PREMIUM in the world we live in. But open your eyes, and I PROMISE you, it’s there! If you see even a PINPOINT of light in the darkness of the world, hold onto it as a form of HOPE, and break down the walls around it. Let that light IN, soak it up, and let it move you to a smile or a cry or a hug or even a good nap.
This kindness can come from the most unlikely of sources. I saw it last week, and because I saw it ONCE, I’ve seen it more and more since.
There’s a group home of folks with mental illnesses a few blocks away from where I live. Most of the people who live there keep to themselves, but they walk around the neighborhood to get out of the house and enjoy their time.
I ran into one of the tenants as I was leaving my house the other day. I wasn’t in the mood to talk because it had been a rough week, so I kept my head down and tried to unlock my car before he could see me. I’d seen this guy before, but I had never spoken to him, nor had I heard him speak. He was HUGE, and had a slow gait, and as the world works, I figured it’d be just as well if I got in my car and left him alone. Stupid, right? That’s not who I am, but I was in a hurry and a bad mood.
Anyway, I’m getting in my car, and the dude yells from across the street.
“Hey, man! It’s beautiful today, isn’t it?” he said, big grin on his face. I looked up, caught at my car with the door open. “You know how long this weather’s gonna last?”
I stopped and smiled. “Yeah, it is,” I said. “But I think it’s gonna get cold again in a few days.”
“Ahhh, mannnnn,” he said. “See, I love it when it’s warm out like this, but I don’t like going out in the cold. I can’t be doing that!”
“Yeah,” I said, trying to get into my car. “Well have a good one!”
He kept talking.
“You know, CHRISTMAS is coming up real soon,” he said with excitement in his voice (picture James Earl Jones’s voice when you read how he said “Christmas). I stopped again.
“Hard to believe, isn’t it?” I said, and he stopped and looked me dead in the eye, pointed at me, and said in the most SINCERE voice possible:
“Yeah. Well, I hope you have a MERRY CHRISTMAS, man! And you take CARE.”
I told him to have a great one, too, and he walked on down the road. The most random of conversations from one of the most unlikely sources FLOORED me. I stood by my car, punched in the gut in a good way by the simple kindness of a stranger and the spirit of Christmas. It was the first I’d really FELT it this year, and it was nice.
It’s been a snowball effect since, and even in the craziness of last minute shopping and crowded stores, it’s there! Believe me, I’ve had some bad run-ins with last minute shoppers in the past, but think about it. They’re not in there for THEMSELVES, but for a loved one or a friend or a neighbor. There’s something selfishly unselfish about the cranky ones in the store, and even though they’re usually the ones you notice, the friendly ones are there, too. I spoke to an old lady for TWENTY MINUTES yesterday about which picture frame to buy because she wanted to get the right one for her family’s gift exchange. She was SO concerned about whether or not they’d like it, but all I knew is that I’d be proud to have a gift with that much effort and LOVE behind it, no matter what it was!
SHE hit me with that feeling of Christmas without realizing it!
And if YOU haven’t felt it yet (even though I hope you have), take another look around. Maybe you’ve had a tough year, or you’re dealing with money issues or relationship problems. Maybe you’ve got a sick relative or you’ve lost a loved one or you can’t be around the people you wanna be with. You are NEVER alone, you are LOVED, and that feeling is there!
Yeah, cue that song from “Love Actually.” Look at the pure excitement on a kid’s face when they talk about what they want for Christmas. Watch the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Or “Charlie Brown.” Or “Scrooged.” Call an old friend. Tell someone you love them. Tell STORIES. Laugh. Cry. Soak in old traditions and EMBRACE the new ones. Let go of grudges and jealousy. Be the antidote to the poison in the world. Hug your spouse or your partner or your dog or your kid. Welcome Christmas.
LOVE like it’s Christmas every day, because YOU are loved.
And that is awesome.