Regardless of your beliefs or traditions, your gift lists or vacation plans, I hope this holiday season is a time for reflection and thankfulness.
A time to contemplate the many opportunities and blessings we have in life, and also the less-than-ideal moments, as those are what spur our growth and provide perspective. It’s hard to do this, and do it consistently, but without this intentional kind of introspection, it’s easy to overlook how good everyday is.
I’m hardly a religious person. I find more sanctuary in a yoga studio than I do in temple, and often struggle to recognize that some things happen for no good reason. When really crappy things do happen, I try not to dwell on why, and instead focus on how … to help, counsel or move forward. How to take what happened and make a difference.
But man, sometimes I just don’t know how.
I’ve volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters for several years, and my little sister has one of the craziest lives you could imagine, with more challenges and hardships than one person should ever face.
Despite it all, she’s happy and hopeful and radiates a genuinely sweet nature. She never complains, and is always looking for ways to make others happy.
This weekend, I stopped by her house to drop off her Christmas gift. It’s not unusual for a lot of her family to be present when I come over, and Saturday was no different. Only this weekend I got some upsetting news about her 14-month old nephew.
Her mom has been caring for him since his father (my little sister’s older brother) has been in jail since the child was born. His mother was too unstable to care for him full-time, but still saw him each week and was working to make changes in her life. But last week she was found murdered in her apartment.
Now, this adorable, happy baby has no parents. And that shook me to the core. How completely oblivious he was to the chaos surrounding his precious life. So many things that will completely shape his entire life have already unfolded, before he can even be aware of them.
He’s very fortunate to be taken care of by his extended family, who also has full custody of my little sister’s niece, whose father died from cancer and mother overdosed on drugs by the time she was four. My little sister’s never met her own father – her three older siblings have two different fathers.
I don’t retell these stories to generate sympathetic feelings or to encourage anyone to volunteer in the community – although those are important things to feel and do – but more because it amazes me to see how much love and happiness bubbles out of this house that could be overcome with grief or negativity.
The family is grateful for all they have, and never complains.
It’s led me to this realization:
Everyday that we wake up happy, hopeful, healthy and able to do what we enjoy is such a blessing. To enjoy our routines and opportunities is all we can hope for. And to have people in our lives that we love and who love us back, is what makes everyday a holiday.