I hope you’re not totally frazzled, worn out, and unnerved by now, trying to get everything done and wrapped up before Christmas. It can be a frantic time of year, even for the most organized people, a happy time, or a sad one, depending on where we are in our lives at the moment. It will undeniably be a hard time this year for those who have suffered losses of loved ones in some of the violent and tragic events that have caught our attention around the world. For those people, these holidays won’t be easy. My family went through that when we lost my son Nick three months before Christmas several years ago. Christmas was tough, and we struggled to make it the best we could, reaching out to friends, staying close with our family, and trying to make sense of life, and not totally losing our sense of joy at a very hard time for us, despite such a huge loss.
We can’t ignore, and I can’t ignore, the hard public events that have happened in the past year, the unrest all around us, the uncertainties in our future, about safety, disturbing political situations, the economy in almost every country. We don’t live in easy times, and it presents a challenge to each of us, as to how we view it, what we do about it, what we tell our children, how we explain things that even we don’t understand, and that are almost impossible to understand, and in some ways the senseless violence that threatens us all in some form.
What I find is that in many cases, it is driving people back to our basic and original traditions—–rather than disrupting our lives and tearing them apart forever, it is bringing back and strengthening some of the things we hold most dear: love of family, simple values and traditions, the importance of our friends, some of the smallest things and gestures in our lives are suddenly infinitely more dear. In some cases, it is making people kinder and more compassionate, reaching out to others, cherishing their relatives and friends. It makes each moment we spend with our children dearer and more important. The risks in the world today make each day seem like a gift.
Each of us have our traditions surrounding the holidays, Christmas or Chanukah, or customs in other cultures to mark the end of the year, traditions involving gifts or food or friendship or religion, which bring us comfort and give us a solid foundation to stand on. I think that when the world is troubled, the simple basics become more important. Although it’s certainly fun to get a fabulous gift, the kind gesture of a friend, or some small token from someone you don’t know well, a thoughtful reaching out in some way, baking something, giving something meaningful, doing something kind and small, touches the heart deeply.
I read recently “If you want a miracle, be a miracle to someone”, we all have that opportunity every day, to reach out, to be kind, and to pay attention when someone seems in distress or needs a hand. I know myself that whenever I was having a hard time with something in my life, the smallest gesture sometimes even from a stranger, even a smile, becomes meaningful, and can change an entire day.
We don’t have to have lived through tragedy to face challenging times. We all get stressed and pushed, and a day can head in the wrong direction, or we could be coincidentally dealing with major issues in our lives during the holidays. Someone reaching out to you then can change everything, can turn the day around. And at a time when it is easy to feel overwhelmed, like at the holidays, what better time to take a minute to smile, or lend a hand, call someone you know and may not have talked to for a while, or embrace the people you know and are grateful for, to tell our children how much we love them, praise our coworkers or cherish a friend, those are sometimes the most precious gifts to all of us. We may not even realize that someone we know is having a hard time, and your kind gesture may change everything for them.
I love buying gifts for my children and friends, for employees and coworkers and people who have been kind and helpful to me during the year (and my January budget is usually a mess as a result, but it’s worth it), but we forget sometimes what a huge difference a tiny gesture can make. It’s hard to think of it at times, to remember, to take the time and act on it, when we are all busy and stressed, but being a miracle to someone seems like the essence of the holidays to me. Some of the gifts that have meant the most to me are the gestures I least expected, something someone made me, or did for me. I try to remind myself of that when I rush around, trying to get everything done: pick out Christmas trees, decorate them, entertain friends, or do special things with my children that they will enjoy and hopefully remember for years. This year it seems particularly important to embrace our traditions, establish new ones, to reach out with generosity and compassion, rather than turning inward in despair and fear.
It’s up to each of us to set the example, to be a beacon of love and warmth, to shine brightly, to cast light into the world, instead of darkness.
May your holidays shine brightly, may your hearts be warm, and may we each be a miracle to someone in some small way. Our lights combined will light up the world with love and hope. And from the bottom of my heart, I wish each of you a Merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate, I thank you for your kindness to me all year, for reading my books, for your letters and comments, for caring about me and my family. May our love for each other, all of us, light the world, just as you light up my days and warm my heart. May you and those you love be blessed and warm and safe during these holidays and always.
with all my love, Danielle