From Twelve to One

And peace on earth goodwill to all

Once again, I am writing about Christmas, but this is about something that really bothers me. I was raised Catholic, and maybe that’s partly why I have always thought of Christmas as a season and not just one day. The Christmas tree went up on the 24th of December and was not taken down until after Olde Christmas Day on the 6th of January. When I was a child Christmas meant going to church, visiting my grandparents, and spending time with family and friends. When I was very little there was a lot of excitement surrounding gifts and anticipating what Santa might bring, but as I grew older, and especially after I had children of my own, I grew to appreciate the beauty of Christmastime. And not just the scrumptious food and merry-making, but the deeper, long-lasting values of selfless giving; of the importance of goodwill, faith, peace and love. The charitable impulses often lost in the daily grind are more on display at Christmas than at any other time of year. Thankfully that still seems to be the case today.

Yet, in this more secular world are we losing out on some of these values? A young person I worked with seemed aghast when I said I might wear my Christmas sweater to work on the 27th – I had been telling an employee who was not there last year about how chilly the place is after being closed a few days and how she should wear something warm. My Christmas sweater is very warm. At any rate, my young co-worker was surprised at the idea of my wearing it after Christmas day. It led me to wondering once again about how fast-paced life has become and how the season of Christmas seems to grow shorter and shorter year after year. It saddens me. Have the ‘twelve days of Christmas’ been shortened to only one?

What does Christmas mean to you? Is it only one day out of the year, or like myself, do you see it as more than that? I think, more than ever, we need that spirit of goodwill; of peace on earth. And we need to have more than just one day to celebrate it.

To Build a Better World

“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving individuals. To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement, and at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.” – Marie Curie

When I was a child my mother taught me that we are all brothers and sisters – regardless of where we are born, the color of our skin, our religion or creed – we are all human and responsible for one another. Our words and actions affect others, whether those words are spoken at home, in the work place, or anywhere in public. Whether our actions are at home, or somewhere else. They make an impact. Are we acting or speaking in light of the dictates of our faith or beliefs? Where is our God in all of this?

I see images every day of the torment and pain people all over the world are facing daily. Whether here at home in small indigenous communities or on the streets of Syria on the other side of the world. People are suffering. Where are our leaders? Where are the champions of the poor and destitute; the tortured and wrongfully imprisoned? When did we become blind to the injustices, deaf to the pleas for help?

The daily reminders can make us hard of heart, or put up walls in self-defence. Unable to make a difference in a world that has too many problems it is easy to cave in to feelings of defeat and hopelessness.

Perhaps we cannot change the world. But we can make a difference in the ways we speak to others, in the way we treat others in our day-to-day lives. We can pray. We can donate to the charities of our choice. There are things we can do, choices we can make. Choices that may make a difference. To do nothing is to deny we are all human and all in need – in one way or another.

“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.” – Helen Keller

“In the last analysis, the individual is responsible for living his own life and for “finding himself.” If he persists in shifting his responsibility to someone else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence.” – Thomas Merton

“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” – Bob Dylan

The Ripple Effect

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop

I believe in the ripple effect. Sometimes we meet people who are angry and belligerent, but as a woman I know said, “don’t take it personally, we don’t know what is going on in that person’s life, what challenges they face or what wounds they carry”. I think that is excellent advice.

To respond without anger, without judgement is often not easy, but it is always the better choice Responding, or reacting to anger with more anger only escalates the situation. However, it can be difficult. After all we are all only human and each carrying our own baggage, so to speak. It’s not easy to unpack the bag; to rid ourselves of recriminations, desire for vengeance, etc. If we can respond with calmness we often see a much better result.

With that said, I don’t think we should lay down and allow people to walk all over us – we don’t have to be a doormat. It’s a fine line at times, this balancing act between self-care and care for others. But I do believe in the ripple effect – the random acts of kindness; the acts of compassion and mercy. Acts of kindness make me feel good and I believe makes the other person feel good as well. Perhaps they will ‘pay it forward’ and be kind to the next person they interact with.

Conversely to act in anger, to speak harmful words, also have a ripple effect causing us to feel awful and the other person as well. I am only human. I make mistakes, but I hope I have learned enough to not repeat them. I hope I will sow more seeds of compassion than seeds of wrath in my lifetime. We cannot change the world, but we can change what we do in our own small corner of it.

“A tree is known by its fruit, a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost, he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” – Saint Basil





Wishing you blessings

Do not let the world silence your voice. Your life, your experiences, your thoughts and feelings are valid. You matter. Never forget that. These are some of the things I would tell those who have lost all sense of hope. Empathy, kindness, compassion and love sometimes seem like they are in short supply. But it is the gentleness we seek that we can find within. Be gentle with yourself today. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to others. It is easy to let hurtful words and actions reverberate through our minds; wounding ourselves anew with every echo of past hurts. Hold on, for this too shall pass. Nothing lasts forever, not even the coldest, the most bitter of winds. I am wishing you many blessings as you travel along your path.

The impact of thoughts and words

“Be careful of your thoughts when you’re alone. And be careful of your words when you’re with people.”  Author unknown

I love this concept. It is so true. Your thoughts can have a domino effect, one tumbling into another into another. Negative thoughts can cause a lot of harm – to ourselves and ultimately, to others.  Conversely, positive thoughts about ourselves, our families, friends, and coworkers build us up and help us act kindly; to be gentle with ourselves and with others.

Negative words, cruel words, words that wound deeply are to be avoided. Sometimes anger can cause a lot of harm because we are reacting to a perceived injustice.  So choosing our words wisely is a very good idea.

Sometimes life throws a wrench into our carefully laid plans. When this happens I try to see the lesson I need to learn. Sometimes the most painful of events lead us to the best situations and circumstances for our greater good. Change can be painful, but if we can find the silver lining; meet the challenge; overcome the obstacles, I think it can make us better people. But, we need to be open to receive the blessing in disguise.