I was raised in a family that celebrates Christmas, a holiday that is surrounded by a myriad of family birthdays, including my own. For some members of my family, this time of year holds a deeply spiritual significance. For others, it is a time to celebrate family, friends, our cultural heritage, and count our blessings. This year, the lights went out in certain sections of my family, as not one, but two family members crossed over: my paternal grandmother, just one year ago, and my maternal uncle less than six mothers later. When a light goes out somewhere, it's interesting the way our eyes adjust. Despite the dark spots, our eyes seem more attuned to that which remains before us. Hasn't this entire year been a little like that?
Having experienced two subsequent losses, I feel hyper-aware of the family that I still have. I've tried to be a bit more deliberate with my contact this year, though I recognize my desire to do more. When people experience the loss of family members, it is expected that they enter a process of grieving and reflection. There's something powerful about allowing ourselves to live in that moment, and if we allow ourselves to be truly present in those moments, it seems that they can lead us to finding our more compassionate selves.
When I look around me, I see so many lights going out in people's lives. I have many friends experiencing extended unemployment, with no ending in sight. People have lost loved ones. Others have loved ones that they cannot safely see. People are losing or near-losing their businesses. Some are months behind on their mortgages and rent payments. This year looks incredibly different from previous ones, and it's okay to take a moment to recognize it. We don't have to keep going along like we did before, because things aren't the same as they were before.
A number of years ago, when I was in a much smaller income bracket, I released myself of the obligation of giving gifts that I couldn't afford (that people didn't really need or care for) because of a holiday tradition. Generally speaking, I would usually elect to get something for my partner and parents; perhaps a friend here or there if I felt so inspired. I felt a tremendous weight lifted, not realizing that this self-inflicted obligation was causing me injury. No doubt, if you are reading this right now, you have experienced some level of loss in 2020; virtually everybody has. If your loss has been largely financial, perhaps it is worth considering how giving might also look different this year. Perhaps this is the year to relieve yourself of the obligation to buy, as I did years ago.
Just as everything else in 2020 seems to look different, so do my intentions this year. I feel a deep sense of compassion for the losses experienced by others. In the past month, one of my students lost everything to a fire. Another of my students just experienced the passing of her mother this month, and yet a third student of mine has a father on life-support. Each time one of these situations arises, it really strikes me. Not only is the emotional toll on these families absolutely devastating, but the financial burden is as well. This is where some of my holiday dollars will go. I recognize that my donations are a splash in the bucket compared to the need, but there is strength in the collective energies of our like-minds and hearts. The Law of Fellowship suggests that when two or more people of a similar vibration come together for a shared purpose, their combined energy will be doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled when directed at the attainment of that shared goal.
The question at hand is "Where should we be directing our energy?" As we look around us, seeing so much devastation, can those of us that are doing well financially use some of our holiday dollars to do some real good? It seems as though this can be accomplished through donating and gift-giving. I am choosing to make some donations to these students' families, arts organizations (which have been obliterated during Covid), and some that relate to food, clothing, or medical needs. As always, my gift-giving list is pretty small, but I am being very deliberate about what am purchasing, and where it comes from. I am not going into stores because I do not want to expose or become exposed. I have discovered that some of our favorite local "foodie" places ship all across the country. There are deli's, restaurants, and local shops that I really want to see whether this storm. So, I am ordering items from these places to be shipped directly to my family members. I'm also using independent book stores, Etsy shops, and local artisans with direct shipping. Lastly, I'm considering ways to slightly expand my giving list to include a few people that for a variety of reasons (some Covid-related) have experienced a greater level of isolation recently. Is there someone in your family that is experiencing a first holiday alone? Is there someone that is in a higher risk category and spent a significant time alone this year? Could you bless a local flower shop with your business, and brighten their day with a freshly cut arrangement?
We've been given an awful lot of time to think this year, and we still have the time to be deliberate with our selections. Is this the year for you to alleviate yourself of some holiday obligations? Do you feel moved to show some extra attention to someone that is experiencing isolation? Can you shop local and ship direct to minimize risk and bless some business that you love? Can you donate to some individuals and organizations that really need the help? If there are other inspirations you've had about giving this year, I look forward to hearing them.