Christmas was different this year. Actually, 2011 was a different sort of year all together. We lost many people in a circle of influence during the past 12 months; a friend’s 10 year old son, a friend’s 27 year old son and then his father just months later, a life-long family friend, my daughter’s friend’s father in his early 30s, my mother in law, and most recently a family friend’s mother on Christmas day. There are others, too. We went to at least 8 visitations and funerals this year, and couple others that we couldn’t be at.
This year was different. It served to remind us how fleeting life can be and how significant relationships are to our own existence. Many have written that social media has caused us to detach from relationships, thus becoming more isolated and leaving countless people feeling alone despite having hundreds of “friends” and “followers.” I think there’s some truth – if we allow the social media to replace real people.
Our family chose to simplify this Christmas season. We helped others with Christmas gifts who otherwise had virtually nothing, and we chose to downsize our own celebration. Having been very blessed in recent years, it was a deliberate shift back to the focus of family time, face to face time, and being in relationships with each other.
Christmas day found us in church after opening gifts with our children, age 11 and 13. Gifts were kept meaningful and simple, a shift from digital technology that dominates the world around us. As we later gathered with my parents, we opened gifts which were again deliberate and scaled down from years past. We shared a traditional meal, played Bingo and Apples to Apples, and watched Red Skelton. As we drank tea and munched on Christmas cookies, I reflected that we are so blessed. We drank tea from 40 year old Centennial Rose china and ate our meals with gold plated cutlery, while others in the world think about their next meal, and live just one day at a time.
It’s okay to be blessed. It’s a blessing to be so blessed, but let us not lose sight of the things that truly matter in our lives – the people, the relationships, and the memories that we make. As the Christmas season quickly closes and we move on to the next mass marketing campaign of Valentine’s Day, I hope that we will spend the coming year focusing on this simplicity that matters. Take the time to connect to real people, face to face, and care about them – don’t just poke, like or tweet. Help out a neighbor, open the door for a stranger, buy someone’s lunch, lend a shoulder for a tearful friend or stranger. We are all in this together. When we take the time to slow things down, we learn that each of us has something to share with each other. Let’s again become a community.
Everyone has a story. Take the time to listen to someone’s. They have a story to tell. They may have a story that needs to be told, one that you need to hear.