By Jean Mauzy
---- — Thanksgiving Day marks the beginning of a frequently intense holiday season. Many individuals spend the days leading up to the end of November as the time to plan all activities for the remainder of the year. Even with the best of intentions, many people often find that those plans rarely produce an exact match to what actually occurs. (Poor gift selections, not-so-perfect recipes, and common cold weather-related illness can put a damper on our grand intentions.)
However, something almost mystical occurs when we think about the approaching holiday season. Our minds repeatedly conjure up images of a nice relaxing time where families and friends gather for hearty laughter and good cheer. It does not matter how our dreams pan out, from one year to the next, we seem to lose sight of how stressfully treacherous the holiday season can be.
Why then, when we imagine relaxing with family and friends, do we end up putting ourselves through so much stress or misery by spending countless hours preparing the perfect meal or searching for the ideal gift? I believe we try to make everything as wonderful as possible in attempts to create happiness. In our inspired efforts, we strive for perfection because we truly want to make our holiday fantasies come true. The trouble with that philosophy is that we cannot personally “produce” happiness.
Happiness is something you own within you and not something to buy or to create. A person sitting down to eat a meager family meal may be a very happy person at that moment while a different person feasting on the finest foods available to him or her may not feel that same type of happiness at all. Sure, a holiday planner may be able to present a luxuriously pleasant dining atmosphere but without an inner “thankful” feeling among the participants, the five-star gathering may not be so grand. Something will be missing.
If it’s not what we own or what we can buy, then what is it that will make the holidays a grand, relaxing, or cheerful time of year? The answer is to be appreciative of what you do have and thankful for the people you have in your life. Instead of fretting over how you want to make a grand personal fantasy come true, take stock of whatever is already within your grasp. Be happy spending time with those that you love and cherish.
Living in a materialistic society where pop culture helps make us believe that we are defined by what we have or what we can gain for ourselves, we may easily lose focus on important human qualities. While we delve inward to make our lives grander, our behavior and our actions can make us appear greedy or overly self-involved. We only look out for ourselves or those closely related to us while we neglect others in dire need.
I intentionally digress to remind the readers that while we all strive to make our own holidays the grandest that they can be, we would be faulty individuals to neglect so many people less fortunate than we are. Although we cannot create happiness for others, we do have the ability to make life a little brighter for people in need of something extra. Needs I speak of are sometimes more than material goods. Some people may need a simple reminder that someone is merely thinking about them or rather that someone acknowledges their existence.
Donating to food pantries throughout the year is always a nice gesture as well as is volunteering your time to those entities. Likewise are the sentiments for donating toys or other gifts at Christmas time. Aside from the mentioned material items, a need exists for us to reach out to people on a more personal level. Shut-ins or individuals living in nursing facilities are often overlooked this time of year. While we are busy planning, they are just waiting. They may just wait for someone to stop and say hello or to ask how they are doing.
Take a moment out of your day to call or to visit with someone who may need what I describe. It might be a person with no family or with family living far away. The person may be someone, who for whatever reason doesn’t get out of the house much. Regardless, a kind gesture toward them will surely brighten a day.
Keep Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season in perspective with the human touch. Be thankful for what you already have.