As I scurried through the mall last weekend hunting down my final Christmas gifts, my eye caught an ad: “Coming home – The greatest gift of all”. Here I was, stressing about the shirt I couldn’t find in the right size and the checkout line that was so unbearably long, that I hadn’t stopped to consider the true gifts of Christmas.
This year, for the first time in a long time, I am home for Christmas. I didn’t have to travel hours on an airplane, I didn’t have to take time off work and measure the days between arrival and departure. No, this year I live 5 minutes from my parents house, the house I grew up in. I have the pleasure and luxury of being able to visit my parents a few times a week. I am blessed to be able to see my nieces and nephew grow up, to be part of their lives, to attend school plays and basketball games, and to witness first words and first steps. I get to be here all the time. And as annoyed as I get sometimes by the overbearing, up-in-your-business, call-you-20-times-a-day, Greek nature of my family, I love them and am so thankful for all of them.
If you are far from your loved ones this Christmas, I know how you feel. I’ve been there many times. Ordering in and sitting in front of the tv because, well, Christmas was just another day. Just know that things change and contrary to the popular saying “life is short”, life is also long. There will be many Christmases ahead with various opportunities to connect with fellow humans along the way. It was in those alone Christmases that I got to experience the kindness of human nature. Colleagues and acquaintances that I exchanged no more than a few words with each week invited me into their homes to share Christmas with their families. I was humbled by their generosity and open hearts.
So now that I am so blessed to be so close to home, I don’t want to take it for granted. I want to give back to my fellow earthlings like they have given to me in the past…a pay it forward if you will.
So this Christmas season, in addition to the gift giving, I will give in different, more meaningful ways.
To the old man I see at Starbucks every day, who seems hungry for conversation…to him I will give a Starbucks gift card and my undivided attention.
To the coworker with whom I disagree on almost everything..to her I will give a card and the benefit of the doubt.
To the neighbors upstairs, whose baby wakes me up at 3am almost every night…to them I will give some kind words and some homemade cookies.
To my parents, who wake up at 4am every morning and tirelessly work even though they are well past retirement age…to them I will give my love and appreciation, and a nice Christmas Eve meal.
As we finish up our Christmas shopping and get ready for the day, let’s not forget that Christmas is about giving, and giving isn’t always material. Time, attention, a helping hand, a kind word…these small gestures can go a long way in making our fellow humans feel loved and showing them that they matter.