Monday, December 16, 2013

Showing Compassion 52 Weeks A Year

From Thanksgiving to New Years, for about 6 weeks a year we find compassion for others. Sure throughout the year we may do a random act here and there for someone. However, during the “Holiday Season” we take food to the needy, send cards, give thanks, offer words of kindness and give to charities. But, what about the other 46 weeks of the year, what do we do?

It does not cost anything to tell someone that we love them, to give thanks, to give your time to soup kitchen or visit strangers at the VA, a nursing home, patients in hospice or just to be kind to others. Most all of us have enough food in our cabinets to fill up a bag that we can give to someone in need. It cost very little to send a card to let someone know you are thinking of them or to even give as little as a $1.00 a month to a charity that is close to your heart.

For a lot of people we get so caught up in our everyday life during the year that we don’t even notice that we are too busy to pay attention to how we treat others. We don’t notice that we are sometimes rude to those around us. We forget to edit ourselves and what we say or the tone in which we speak. We disregard acts of kindness and instead of saying thank you we come to expect them. We listen to gossip and even participate in it. We make excuses for our bad behavior or even try to justify it.

The hard work is to acknowledge our short comings. While we may have good intentions, to others what they see is that moment when we act like idiots and seem as if we don’t have an ounce of compassion in our hearts.  We need to take a step back and define ourselves every day, not just 6 weeks out of the year. We have to decide to be more aware, be more kind; loving and true to whom we really are in our hearts.

I am the first to hold up my hand and say I fall short of the person I want to be. I remember a song I learned many years ago.

 Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.

With God as our father, brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me; let this be the moment now.
With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment and live each moment, with peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

This is the person I want to be 52 weeks of the year. There is enough craziness, loneliness and hate in the world. My goal is to make a big change in my life and live every day with a purpose of compassion.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holiday Traditions

My husband and I both wanted to continue traditions from each of our families and add some of our own when we got married. Both of his parents passed away when we were teens and we live far from most of our family.  We feel that traditions help keep us connected to our past and the people who are important to us, especially around the holidays.  Here are a few of the traditions we have incorporated into our holiday celebrations:

Sometime before Thanksgiving, each person in our family fills out a wish list.  This started out just to help me know who likes what kind of Chapstick and other random information for stockings.  The wish list we used this year asks for things like clothing sizes, favorite colors, items needed, items wanted, etc.  There is usually a week grace period after filling out the wish lists and then nothing can be added.  Also, once the forms are filled out, no one has permission to show me the new things they want at the store.  This has been fairly successful in cutting down the “I wants” as all of the Christmas sales begin.  I give copies to grandparents and other family asking what the kids want for Christmas and everyone is happy with their gifts because they are things they like. 

We keep fall decorations up and celebrate Thanksgiving with a big family meal.  This is one of the few completely kick-back days of our year.  Because we all like to cook and a crowded kitchen makes for a grumpy mama, each person chooses one dish to help prepare. The list is posted so I can call that person when I’m ready to make his/her dish.  Throughout the day, we shuffle the ads around to decide what we’re shopping for, but the only shopping done on Thanksgiving is online after dinner.  During dessert, we make a thankful tree.  Each person puts things on the leaves that he/she is thankful for.  We usually end the day with a movie or two since we’re not really into football. 

The weekend after Thanksgiving is divided between shopping in the stores, making cards (yes, we still send cards), and decorating our house for winter.  I didn't say that we decorate for Christmas for two reasons.  My time is precious and I don't want to spend a lot of time putting things up that will come down in a few short weeks.  Also, we decorate with snowmen and a wintery theme that will last through January rather than Santa Claus.  Our tree is the only thing that comes down on New Year's Day and the rest stays for a while longer. We also get gifts for a local charity to keep ourselves focused on giving rather than getting.

Throughout December, we use our advent calendar to count down to Christmas and keep us focused on the reason for the season.  Normally, the kids each get an ornament to hang on the tree that represents something from the year, but this year we’re making ornaments.  Dozens and dozens of cookies are baked to give as gifts to neighbors, coworkers and loved ones.  We also get our gifts wrapped and under the tree. 

On Christmas Eve, we read the Christmas story, unwrap our pajamas and one family gift that is usually a board game.  We spend the evening watching movies and playing games.  Towards the end of the night, each person fills someone else’s stocking.

Christmas Day begins early in the morning with stockings.  We have a simple breakfast and then unwrap some presents.  My mom and dad come over for a late lunch (our big meal) and then we open the rest of our gifts.  There is always a treasure hunt for something - either a big family gift or something special for someone in the family.  The evening is low-key with dessert and playing with new toys. 

We finish out the holiday celebration by inviting friends over for a big New Year’s Eve potluck dinner.  We celebrate my mom and dad’s anniversary (December 31), our son’s gotcha day (January 1), and the new year all in one.  It’s the best way to welcome a new year!

I’d love to hear how your family celebrates!