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Holidays a time for reconnecting with and helping others

Monday, October 29, 2007 | 8:24 a.m. CDT; updated 7:52 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Rose Nolen

I am glad that we are rapidly approaching the holiday season. Hopefully, it will be a time of spiritual healing for people who have had a rough year. Frankly, I haven’t met anyone who considers the past twelve months as a joyful time. Not only has the war continued, with many more lives lost and many more injured, but many have also seen their financial situation take a downward turn. Those who have faced health problems with inadequate health insurance have been hit the hardest.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no help in sight for our national problems. The most we can do is try to make our own lives as trouble-free as possible. It is time for us to gather with our friends and families and bring our best to the occasion. We might not be able to solve the important issues of the day, but we can at least try to bring cheer and comfort to one another.

When it’s hard to rally to the cause, it helps sometimes to remember that customs and traditions play an important role in keeping families together. Growing up in a large, close-knit family, my brother and I learned that the hard way. We two were always looking for new adventures, which often gave us occasion to test the boundaries. Our family opened our Christmas gifts after rising on Christmas morning. For some reason, one year my brother and I decided we were bored with that tradition and asked for permission to get up at midnight and open ours.

Our alarm clocks woke us at five minutes after midnight and we hurried to the tree, grabbed our gifts and opened them, then hurried back to bed, laughing with delight that our siblings wouldn’t know what their gifts were until morning. I’ll never forget the superior smirk my brother had on his face when we joined the family around the tree and watched the others enjoy their opening ceremony. As we listened to their squeals and observed their smiles of joy, suddenly our little night adventure didn’t seem all that much fun. Later, we admitted to each other how deprived we felt at not being a part of the morning ritual. That’s how we learned what it meant to belong to a family and that sharing pleasure doubled the joy. It’s a lesson neither of us ever forgot.

I have found it to be true that trouble shared is also trouble lessened. It’s often surprising the difficulties people successfully endure when they are surrounded with love and companionship. As a young woman, I’ll always remember how I felt that I could survive anything as long as I could make it home, climb into my mother’s bed and rest my head on her pillow.

In the horse-and-buggy days it was easier, of course, for us to appreciate how much we needed each other. Now, when everyone has her own vehicle and her own computer cubicle, it’s easy to believe that we can live independently of anyone else. Apparently, that way of life works better among the young than it does for older people, since some studies have found that isolation contributes to health problems in senior citizens. Fortunately, today, most communities have social programs, where people who may not have families can still enjoy the company of others.

All the activities surrounding the holidays such as travel, food preparation and shopping will certainly keep many of us away from the television set for longer periods. That definitely will be a good thing, not only because most of the news these days is bad news, but because it will also help us to forget how helpless we are to do anything about it. I’ve heard that some families are starting to circulate their own newsletters to help lift their relatives and friends out of the doldrums.

And we need to remember, too, that there are people in our own neighborhoods and communities that are having a hard time. So even if we can’t do anything to improve the big picture, there are many organizations that maintain lists of individuals who need a helping hand. It can only serve to make your own holidays more rewarding when you have given aid or comfort to someone else.

One of the ways I plan to celebrate my holiday season is by trying to contact old friends that I have not heard from during the past year. I want to catch up with what’s going on in their lives. A constant problem in our busy lives is that too often there’s only time to share with the family and friends in your immediate area. Those who live in other places are often left out.

And I truly believe that it’s worth the extra effort this year to try to make our celebrations as special and memorable as we can. It seems to me that many of us can use all the cheer we can get.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.


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