Each year, as the Christmas season is upon us, the challenge for many, is to try to carry on despite the absence of a loved one. The feeling of separation or loss is greatly magnified during this period that is supposed to be enjoyed together with those you love.
We hear talk of “Christmas Spirit,” but do we really put it into practice? Reaching out to someone who might otherwise be alone at this time of the holidays can be one of the greatest gifts they will ever receive, and it does not cost a penny. Pay a visit to a nursing home, a senior center, or a hospital to bring a simple message that just says, “you are not forgotten.”
Christmas memories are meant to be the beautiful sight of watching the smile of a little child as they scamper down the stairs to discover that Santa had visited overnight leaving some neatly wrapped presents under the tree. It should be the joy of gathering around the piano with friends and family singing the carols that have been the sounds of the season throughout our lives. It should be that special moment when handing over that special gift for that special person in your life, whether it be your first true love, or your life partner who is deserving of all that you can give them.
For many, these memories and feelings are sometimes painful to recall, when facing Christmas without that someone special. In the lyrics of the song “Doesn’t Seem Like Christmas Without You,” written by my dear friend Joy Smith, we understand that life goes on despite our losses and separations. However, our challenge is to make a genuine effort to reach out beyond the comfort zone of our circle of family and friends and touch someone’s heart with a random act of Christmas kindness. A smile, a hug or even just a gentle touch can be the greatest gift that you might ever give.
Doesn’t Seem Like Christmas Without You
Christmas time is here again
The Season’s full of cheer again
I should be merry, but I’m blue…
Doesn’t seem like Christmas without you.
Snow is falling down again
And Santa’s back in town again
But gifts, should be exchanged by two
Doesn’t seem like Christmas without you.
‘Tis the season to be jolly
But what’s a holiday for one?
Can’t help feeling melancholy
When you’re not there to share the fun.
Christmas bells will ring again
And carolers will sing again
My dreams will have to see me through
Doesn’t seem like Christmas without you.
As we spread the true meaning of Christmas by remembering the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem, may we commit to share another precious gift with the world by exchanging a smile and a loving word with one person, one soul at a time.
To quote a classic phrase from another seasonal favorite, ’The Night Before Christmas,” the traditional poem by Clement C. Moore, I share my Christmas wish to say, “Happy Christmas to all… and to all, a good night.”
Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight
Every so often, the duo of Mother Earth and Mother Nature find it somehow necessary to compete for the biggest disruption of the lives of otherwise peaceful people with the natural disasters of flooding, tornadoes and hurricanes.
We have had our share of disasters this year with devastation in many parts of our country, leaving folks without electricity, water and in many cases, even a home in which to live. As first responders risk their lives to help those in need, it often goes unnoticed that the families and individuals who are left with nothing are the ones who must grab life by the boot straps and get to work trying to continue in the aftermath of tragedy. These brave and courageous souls have no choice but to try and carry on as best they can, despite the human condition. Where is the source from which they draw this strength? That is the age-old question that we may never completely know the answer to until we are faced with a critical situation head-on.
As a speaker, I focus on the topic of resilience and mental toughness as we are charged with the challenges that accompany change. It has become very apparent to me that it is not the severity of the trauma that we face, but rather, our reaction to it that measures our true character. There is a Zen belief that encourages us with the words… “Fall down 7 times, get up 8.”
As parts of our world struggles to regain their homes and try to bring some semblance of order back into their lives, I think about the inner strength that it takes to rise, again and again, despite the odds against you. Somehow, the tenacity of the human spirit has this amazing ability to forge on, in spite of the magnitude of the precipitous event or setback. It has been said that there are only two types of people in the world: those who have been hurt, and those who have been hurt worse. Inside each of us is the strength that we may have never realized before, until such time when we are called upon in these moments of truth.
Each time another catastrophe strikes, I am reminded of the story of the resilience of the folks who lived in Grand Forks, North Dakota many years back. Unfortunately, this scenario has been played and replayed in other towns and cities many times since then, and the courage shown by others is equally as inspiring, but I will always remember the good citizens who lived in Grand Forks.
There is so much more to the story than just the fact that the banks of the Red River sent floodwaters spilling over its banks. There was a collective statement made by the rugged individuals who looked the beast squarely in the eye and said, “Hold on a minute here… you can damage our buildings, but you cannot destroy our spirit!”
The true sense of community that beams across this great country was never more obviously touching than in Grand Forks, ND. It was then, and is now, worthy of a second look. We might all just learn a few things about resilience.
At a time when ninety percent of the fifty thousand residents found their homes and businesses… or both… under water, it would have been much easier to just give up, accept defeat and literally throw in the towel, but they refused to do so. Instead, the town’s newspaper, the Grand Forks Herald continued to print the news of the day just as they had done for the previous one hundred years. The Herald was kept alive, although their building was at first flooded and then subsequently destroyed by fire. Much like the stoic Queen Victoria once said, “I am not interested in the possibility of defeat.”
The newspaper may not have been all that they wanted it to be during that period of community crisis, but it was everything that the townsfolk of Grand Forks needed it to be. It was a moment of raw courage where the inner resolve was tested and the lifeline that they needed was there at a time of togetherness.
Now, that is truly news that is fit to print and a glowing example of “The Spirit of a Champion” in action.
Fall is approaching. For many, it means a new season of schedules for the kids that either intertwine or conflict with school, sleep, meals, work and family life. If you find yourself lamenting each evening about how tired you and the kids are at the end of a long day, it very well could be that your family is struggling because you are out of balance with work, school, healthy foods, exercise and the countless scheduled activities.
Trying to keep my own calendar straight is a challenge, and I often speak with individuals who are trying to get a handle on their world before it spins out of control. Trying to juggle the various schedules of everyone under the same roof can seem almost impossible, unless a few simple tips and tricks are applied to bring some order to life and stop the insanity
Here are some thoughts to jump start a healthy family calendar that I’ve seen work very well for friends and family.
1. Schedule “Family Night.”
This is the first step towards a solution. The idea is simple and best of all, it can create memories to last a lifetime. It might be movie night, take-out night (think pizza or Chinese, for example), board game night, or family walk night. Be creative to pick an activity that earns the consensus of the entire crew. Personally, Cubs games, Wolves games and concerts in the park are a few of my favorite things. The important part is that a night each week is designated just for “together time.” The days of the conversation at the dinner table have sadly gone, so time needs be set aside to catch up with each other. If we learn how to relax…and talk with each other, you might be very surprised by the things you can learn from your kids on your special night.
2. Enjoy time with your child’s friends.
No kidding. You don’t always have to be the coolest house on the block. However, letting kids “hang out” at your place will give you valuable insight into your own child’s interests and motivations. A bonus is the ability to understand the “crowd” with whom he or she associates. For younger children, time spent with a friend offers actual learning lessons and experiences such as sharing, responsibility, taking turns, and countless others. Many child development social experts point out that good, old-fashioned free time for playing and social interaction can be better for a child’s development than an overload of too many organized or structured activities.
3. Let your child choose his/her own interests.Too many well-meaning parents sign their kids up for activities that offer no interest to their child. Conflicts and power struggles are sure to occur as a result. All too often we see cases where a child begs to sign up for activities, or is encouraged to do something of no interest and then wants to quit. This can be caused by a number of issues that take the fun out of the activity… yet, allows for another chance to communicate. Try to aim for an activity where you find your child self-motivated to participate. If he or she needs to be begged, bribed or scolded to get ready, then perhaps, it isn’t the right fit. Many cues, verbal and non-verbal, will indicate levels of interest, dedication and enjoyment.
4. Consider the time commitment when making scheduling decisions.
Activities often emphasize multiple practices, time and travel requirements. As the parent, considering one particular activity over another allows room for more family quality time. There is always a cost to every new commitment. Ask yourself, does being involved with this activity hinder or promote our higher family goal of quality time?
5. Determine your child’s commitment as well.
If your kid says an activity “might” be fun, avoid committing to a full season or year. Not only could it present a problem for your child if he/she doesn’t like it, but will infringe on the other players/members participating in the activity; not to mention the family’s commitment. Many teams rely on a certain number of players or kids to form a group. A last-minute pull-out could cause an impact on everyone else. If you’re not sure, consider signing your child up for a mini-camp or week-long or short session instead. If your kid loves it, then you can always seek something more in the future.
6. Be the Boss.
If everyone in the family is involved in some type of activity, household chores may be harder to get accomplished, thanks to a lack of time. At the family planning meeting, explain for each activity, everyone will have to pitch in to make sure the clothes still get washed, the dishes get done, and the table gets cleared. The key is set expectations up front and stick to them to avoid mutiny down the road. Should you hear the statement from the troops that, “You’re not the boss of me,” remind them sternly, but fairly, with a smile, that you are.
7. They don’t have to participate in everything.
Try to adjust schedules when needed to accommodate the time required for schoolwork and family time priorities. If your child’s grades start to drop, or you notice that your child is falling asleep at dinner, it is quite possible that you may be asking too much of them. Always keep in mind that despite a bottomless tank of gas and a wealth of energy and enthusiasm, a child’s age, personality, and true interests must be considered when crafting their schedules and commitments.
8. There is no “I” in TEAM.
“A family who prays and plays together, stays together,” is a solid message. The healthiest families are those where parents and children support each other’s activities and interests.
9. Always, family first.
With priorities straight, your chances for a happy, well-adjusted family increase exponentially.