“Christmas, my child, is love in action.
Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” ~ Dale Evans
For mothers of small children, Christmas can be a challenging time. To read the words ‘batteries not included’ as a present is being opened on Christmas morning sends a tingle of panic as you realize what it was you forgot to buy! But the biggest struggle can come when you are trying to stretch your dollars and you look at the bicycle, and see the phrase ‘some assembly required’. I remember a Christmas many years ago when I thought, how hard can it be? I then had to watch and listen to an amazing array of curse words sailing through the hallowed Christmas Eve while a frustrated father attempted to complete the job before the kids woke up. From then on I spent the extra money!
Christmas is definitely for the kids. It is that special time of year when gifts appear out of the blue (or down the chimney if you have one!) We forget that our own childhoods were very austere in comparison to the madness that goes on today, and overwhelm our kids and our pocket books with toys, games, electronic devices that will soon be lost, broken or abandoned. Despite the opportunities to redirect our attention to the less fortunate, to think of those who would appreciate far less than we can imagine, we continue to indulge our own selfishness. Thankfully there are those who think about the kids of those mothers who are incarcerated, of families who live in shelters, of the kids of the members of the armed forces serving far away.
And do we appreciate the amazing gift of life? When teaching about the human body I love to tell students that we come with an amazing package, a complete set of working parts, no spares required. There are no optional extras that we have to purchase; the heart has its own self-starting pacemaker, batteries included. Even though it may take newborns a while to adjust to the work of digesting, breathing, focusing on interesting objects, for those of us lucky enough to be born healthy and in full working order, all of the bodily functions settle into their normal routines with little interference on our part.
Over time we may abuse that perfect package we were born with, we may have run the engine too hot, gotten into fender benders, given it bad fuel, and forgotten to change the oil here and there. And so when we hear an unusual clanging sound, or when we break down at the side of the road, we are called upon to address our bad habits and reevaluate the way we care for ourselves. If we are smart we use the images of other people’s misfortune to remind us to get that tune-up, to start that fitness program, to think about the quality of the fuel we buy. Or we use the wrapping up of one year and the symbol of new beginnings, the New Year, to create a new space in our life for a brand new outlook.
Our personalities, our spiritual and emotional selves evolve and develop as we grow. The home we grew up in, things that happened to us in childhood, may affect the way we view life, and we may have to do constant work to help us to cope with life’s adversities. Our journey demands that we do some assembly as we go, looking at better ways to deal with conflict and stress. As we evolve and work on ourselves, we can stop and re-evaluate at any time. And if we take the time to find those things that restore and re-energize us, we can reinvent ourselves whenever we wish.
We often get stuck in unhealthy patterns, handling relationships the same way we always have, with negative results. And we long for others to change, to act differently, to see the errors of their ways. Power comes in the recognition that the only person I can change, or indeed have the right to demand to change, is myself. I can change the way I react to others, or I can remove myself from them. I can choose to change the way I react to the stressors of life. I can choose to look for meaning in life’s ups and downs. Is there a deeper message that I can find in a roadblock in my life’s plan? Was there a reason that I was diverted from my perceived perfect path?
When we look at life differently, we see gifts in everyday actions. When we change the way we view others, we give them love and compassion instead of judging them. And by giving them that gift, we receive blessings in abundance in return.
During this Christmas season, I hope you can find time to appreciate the simple meaning behind the material trappings: the gift of love is the greatest gift of all. May you have a wonderful time with your family and friends, but remember those whose needs are far greater, and send some blessings their way.
I close with the immortal words of Claude McKay, dedicated to his memory of Christmases in Jamaica:
“We were so happy, happy, I remember,
Beneath the poinsettia’s red in warm December.”
One Christmas Love!