First I would like to apologize to my apparently small readership for not giving you more posts to read. My excuse is that I got my husband interested in blogging and he has taken to it like a fish to water. He is such a prolific blogger that it is hard for me to get computer time. So instead of waiting until evening after the kids are in bed (and when he also wants to blog), I'm giving up my afternoon nap. So on to my current subject...
It startled me yesterday to realize that Thanksgiving is only three weeks away. I didn't always understand the fact that the holidays are hard for some people. There are many people who do not have the ideal perfect christmas memories that remind them that the world is a wonderful place, people are a delight and precious magical moments are always just around the corner. For some people, the world has been a hard and difficult place, people have been especially nasty to them in one way or another, and difficult or painful memories jump out at them from around every corner.
I didn't really start to realize this until I was a young adult. I remember reading the Ann Landers column in the newspaper where she would bring up this idea every holiday season. After all, she was in the business of giving advice to people with troubles of many kinds. My own family experiences had been not perfect but mostly loving and happy. I had trouble realizing what other people were going through. Then when I was in my twenties my family had several years in a row where trouble came year after year around the holiday time. Nearly all of my grandparents became ill or died in the season starting just before Thanksgiving and going until just after New Year's. One year my Dad was in the hospital during Thanksgiving after barely surviving a car accident. When these things were going on with our family, we kept finding that many of our friends and acquaintances were going through problems if not similar, at least as stressful. I began to see how easy it was to be fine one minute and then have someone say something perfectly innocently that either brought up depression or anger.
Since there are so many great expectations for the holidays with gatherings of friends and family, there are frequently many failed expectations. Those in themselves can set a person off, who doesn't even realize that they are in a precarious emotional state. I have found that there have been times when I was surprised by situations that I should have avoided. One example of this was attending a Sunday ladies class where the topic was death, the week when my miscarried child's due date came. I had thought that I had already dealt with my loss and my grief had subsided some. I didn't realize that the wound was still fresh and it hurt almost as badly as when it first happened. It would have been better for me to spend the class time helping in the nursery if I had realized ahead of time.
So my suggestion/reminder/whatever you want to call it is to resist the temptation to expect other people to fulfill your holiday dreams and wishes. Take the time to treat the people around you (family, friends, co-workers, perfect strangers) with care, respect, courtesy, and patience. If you encounter people who are obviously having a difficult moment, a bad day, or a bad attitude, take the effort of extending them some grace in their troubled moment. It is too easy to take the path of snapping back or responding in anger yourself and the troubled feelings spread and grow. If we all took the time to restore a relationship, discard a grudge, free others of our expectations, and treat strangers with kindness, our lives would be better for it and so would the people we encounter. Give it a thought. It just might make the difference in your holiday season and in somebody else's too.