Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Compassion at Christmastime

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.
                                          -Galations 6:2

This time of year--especially this year--I'm reminded of just how much so many of us take for granted. Christmas is a joyous holiday, full of love, friends, family, celebration, sharing of blessings, good food, warm jammies and cozy fires, presents, and even time off from work!

Or at least it's supposed to be. Unless, of course, someone or some circumstance has stolen your holiday joy.

I tend to believe that only a select few are genuinely 100% non-stressed this time of year. With financial (and emotional) burdens weighing heavy--money spent on gifts, elaborate meals, warm clothes, decorations, etc.--a lot of people really don't enjoy this time of year very much at all.

Here is a [generalized] list of people who may be putting on a brave face, but internalizing at least a little hopelessness during the holiday season:
  • people who have lost a loved one
  • people suffering with a terminal, chronic, or acute illness or a minor, severe, or disabling injury
  • caregivers
  • the homeless
  • the unemployed
  • children whose parents can't afford gifts or even food
  • parents who can't afford their children's gifts or food
  • children who are hungry or cold
  • college students who are incredibly stressed about finals, money, and academic progress
  • people with eating disorders, mental illness, or some other such thing that affects their confidence
  • parents whose children live far away or aren't speaking to them
  • nursing home patients
  • retirement home residents
  • people who can't afford to travel to see their loved ones
  • people who have to work, like medical staff and other such public servants
  • teachers and people in other professions who will spend most of their holiday downtime preparing for work after the break
  • people who are struggling with debt
  • people who have had a major life change like divorce, bankruptcy, miscarriage, etc.
  • children whose parents don't pay attention to them
  • children who have no parents
  • people who have no friends, or at least feel like they have none
  • people who have been arrested or imprisoned, whether guilty or not
  • and many, many more.
Okay, so you may be thinking, "Um, duh. Common knowledge." But that list just touches the surface. Think about people around the world who may be in even worse predicaments. You can also add in all the advertisements and marketing surrounding Christmas of perfectly cooked holiday meals, trees with gifts literally stuffed underneath because there are so many, people flaunting their big shopping deals on social media, and so many more other scenarios that give people's self-talk no other option than to say, "You're not good enough. You're inadequate. This holiday sucks. Life sucks. This is not fun. You aren't happy. You have no right to be happy. Your life is hopeless."

In my circle of people, I can rattle off about 30 names, without even batting an eye, who might have a hard time this Christmas. I tend to think this is the norm for most people. We all know of friends who are going through a personal challenge right here, right now. Take a quick minute to think about your people and just see who you come up with.

So, let's get to the point. Christmas is about the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, right? Right. How can you be like Jesus this Christmas? I know I want him at the center of my holiday. Over the last few weeks, I have been racking my brain trying to come up with some new holiday traditions to share with my daughter, but I think I've been thinking on the wrong types of things: activities we do together in our home vs. things we can do for others...maybe even others who will never know we helped or could never repay our kindness.

That's what I want my future Christmases to be about: Compassion. Kindness. Loving others. Sharing their burdens. Easing their struggles. Being the light. Holding their hands through the storm. I can confidently say that the people who have been all of those things to me in my life have given me some of the best memories and feelings I have ever had.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Colossians 3:12

Unfortunately, I, like so many others, do not really have any disposable income right now. I'm not able to go all out and buy, buy, buy for others, but if you are able to, maybe just consider the impact that might have in someone else's life. Do you know someone who has children? Buy their kids a gift to show them you have their back. Know a single parent? Give them a gift card to Kroger or Walmart for groceries and necessities--I guarantee they need it and will appreciate it more than you could ever know. Is there a place where homeless people hang out in your community? Stop at a donut shop and get them a jug of hot coffee and a couple dozen donuts. 

Use your gift to be a gift. Mine is my ability to put my thoughts into written words, and I plan to share kind words with others this season. Fun fact: We each have a gift. Even if you haven't found it yet. What's yours?

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10

Feeling uncreative? Let me help:
  • invite someone who is lonely, lost, hungry, cold, or weary to your home for dinner
  • offer compliments to people you see as you're out doing Christmas shopping
  • gather all the change in your house and pop your kids in the car to let them put the coins in the Salvation Army bucket one by one
  • buy a big load of groceries for an elderly person who can't get out to do it alone
  • cook a meal for a set of busy new parents
  • make Christmas cards for the patients on a hospital floor
  • invite someone to come to church with you
  • call a few friends you haven't seen or talked to in a while, wish them a Merry Christmas, ask them how they are--how they really are--and be a friend
  • bake some festive cookies for a friend or coworker
  • go sing Christmas carols or read poetry at a nursing or retirement home
  • go visit with someone who might not get a single other visitor this Christmas
  • babysit someone's child(ren) for a few hours for free, so they can have a break to decompress and destress
  • at the very least, just pray for someone
If you think you can't be there for someone, you're wrong. It doesn't take much to make someone's holiday a whole lot brighter. One small kindness negates a ka-trillion bad things in your life.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 3:8

Think about it.