I heard a great quote this week on a movie trailer: “I don’t like Christmas, but I like getting presents.” This could be said about me. Every year I say to myself, “I don’t like all the materialism that comes with Christmas… Santa is a myth perpetrated by the consumer marketplace to get people spending in the fourth quarter!”
But then I stopped to examine what was really going on. If I were truly honest with myself, this righteous attitude was an excuse to let my wife do all the shopping. After all, “I’m busy at work, earning money so we can afford presents. I’m doing more important things than hanging around crowded malls full of materialistic shoppers.”
But something in me woke up this year. I started to realize how I have not only abdicated my responsibility for shopping, but in the process, kept my heart closed.
Even though I procrastinated my shopping, this week I am actually getting into the stores, but more importantly I am getting into my heart. And it’s been good for me to tune in to the people I care most about and ask, “How can the most important people in my life feel loved right now?” It’s a question that needs answering all year round, but this time of year awakens us to the importance of the question. In the words of Charles Dickens,“I have always thought of Christmas as a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time. It’s the only time in the long calendar of the year when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people around them as fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
Bringing this attitude into the season has opened me to love and gratefully connected me to my soul, to my fellow travelers on this human experience, and to the spirit of life that goes well beyond the meaningless purchasing of presents under the pressure of another to-do list.
And then, I had a conversation with a friend this morning who just returned from visiting his dying sister. He talked of the unsung heroes in our world, not the philanthropic executives who donate money to charity this time of year to make a public appearance of benevolence. The real heroes are people who serve and give to their communities every day of the year without any expectation of personal or public recognition. An example are dying patients who, in the midst of their own suffering, comfort a fellow patient lying in a bed next to them.
Christmas brings to our attention our life-giving need to love and realize our connection to each other. It truly is about the heart, not the wallet (even though the wallet is be a good place to start if there’s money there).
What is your experience of love, both now and after the glow of the season is extinguished?