As I have written here several times, I turned 50 in May and I have been reflecting and writing about the lessons that I have learned in the past 50 years.
As I have shared with Care2 readers, the lessons often come from surprising places, and not so surprising places, like during my walks.
This week marks Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, celebrating not only the victory of a small army over a much larger force, but the miracle of the oil that was only supposed to burn the Menorah for one night, but that miraculously ended up lasting eight days.
Getting ready for Hanukkah got me to thinking about the messages of the holiday. It not only symbolizes the triumph over oppression, but of lightness over darkness, and the belief in something better or miraculous.
There are other lessons I have learned not just from Hanukkah but, from Christmas and other holidays. Here are a few that I thought were worth sharing.
Lightness is better than darkness. Lots of the stress of gathering for the holidays tends to revolve around our families and loved ones (i.e. significant others). It won’t come as news to most people that this discomfort is due to the anger, pettiness, negativity and criticism these people often direct at us. This doesn’t just happen during the holidays, it just seems to get amplified then. I hear both people I know, and total strangers, talking to their significant others as if they were inferior to them, belittling and criticizing them. And, then they are surprised when their loved one shuts down, avoids them, or even leaves. Our relationships are gifts and should be treated as such, no matter what day it is. The old saying “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is one worth remembering all of the time.
It really is the thought that counts. I have found that no matter how small I might think a gift is, if it is something that I have picked out especially for a person, the recipient doesn’t even think about the size or price of a gift. That’s not to say if you give everybody the same “generic” gift, they will be pleased. That indicates thoughtlessness, not thoughtfulness. But, even something seemingly small that you bought specifically for that person because he or she likes it, has a powerful impact and lets people know you care about what is important to them. Our relationships can be so much better if we just remember to always give our loved ones this same level of thoughtfulness.
Giving is good for us. I think that this one is related to the one above. The world would be a much better place if we all held on to the spirit of giving and caring about each other year-round. That’s because we would all be focusing on the positive instead of the negative. When I give somebody a gift, when I do something nice for them, or when I volunteer and help others in the community, I often feel that I get back just as much, or even more than they do. I stop thinking about myself and think about them. Seeing them happy makes me feel happy and it makes me want to keep giving to others.
Be grateful for all that you have especially those you love. As somebody who has spent most of my life living far away from at least several loved ones, I know that during the holidays we can really feel sad because we miss them so much. Sometimes we let the sadness of missing them become so overwhelming, that we forget the fact that we are lucky enough to have people in our lives to love at all, even if at the moment they are hundreds of miles away. Some people are not as fortunate and are truly alone. They won’t even get to connect with anyone via phone, snail mail, email, Facebook, text, etc. Instead of being sad, I am going to focus on the fact that there is somebody miles away that is thinking of me and that loves me in same way I love them. Just thinking of it now brings a smile to my face.