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I mentioned in the last blog the joy of reconnecting with Ellen, a friend I had seen very little of since our graduation from high school in Indiana nearly 55 years ago.  As I write that number, I am absolutely amazed at how quickly time passes, never to be repeated.  Moment by moment our lives pass us by and then an event occurs that triggers a “look back,” and we’re shocked.  The reality of who we have become startles us.

The mini-reunion we had in Chicago last week end provided that “look back” and I remain in a state of shock.  We felt young yet, or so we claimed.  For sure we didn’t feel our age nor did most of us look our age either.  But the minutes had ticked by any way, slipping through our fingers like through a sieve, and the many fond memories of years gone by could only be recounted, not lived again.

There is some thing very special about reliving fond memories.  For one, they can be “used” to lessen the hold of a conflict with a friend or family member.  No one is in charge of what we dwell on but ourselves.  Making the choice to think another thought rather than the one that is creating inner angst is a great choice to make.  And one we can practice repeatedly with out announcing to anyone what we are doing.

The little joys that call to us for a show of appreciation can be as small as a barking dog, a chirping cardinal, that first cup of coffee in the morning with a spouse or a friend, or a child’s whimper to be picked up.  That note of thanks from a friend that was entirely unexpected deserves our acknowledgment too. When ever we seek to notice the many opportunities for showing signs of appreciation, they will seem to multiply.  Funny how that works, wouldn’t you say?

Today, look for the many times you can express appreciation.  Many will be woven within the tiniest of experiences.  The more we cultivate within us the willingness to really see, the greater will be our level of joy.  Sign me up!  How about you?

I am like a kid at Christmas.  As I’ve said already in an earlier entry, I love the lights, (and I have mine lit all day), the spirit of giving, the carols on the radio and the joy that most people feel at the holiday season.  I even love visiting the malls and hearing the carols playing through the loud speaker system.

But there are millions who fail to find the joy in the season because of their personal circumstances, circumstances that are unfortunate through no fault of their own.  I watched on the nightly news this evening a wonderful story about a young boy who started giving sandwiches to the homeless vets in his town when he was a child.  He has continued this program and it has grown, of course.  He doesn’t just collect food to be shared at Christmas but every day.  And thousands of lives have been changed and blessed by it.  Perhaps millions more will be changed now too from having watched his story.

It takes only one person to affect change that’s lasting.  Margaret Mead said this.  So did Mother Teresa.  Caring enough to lift the spirits of one person ignites the flame of hope that can burn brightly for years.  Who knows what the future has in store for this young boy but his commitment to making life better for others will surely ease his own path if ever he falters.  What we give away does come back to us.  Many times over.

I have always loved the holidays.  I love the sparkling lights, the decorations, the carols and giving gifts to loved ones to let them know they matter to me.  I have fond memories of how my family celebrated Christmas.  We kids woke up early and hurried downstairs to see the gifts placed under the tree, while my parents sat watching, probably more tired than any thing else, pretending they were seeing what Santa had brought for the very first time.  I usually got at least one thing I hoped for which made the day a success.

That we had no fireplace, thus no chimney for Santa to come down, never troubled me.  Then it was off to grandma’s house, more gifts and many relatives who generally argued over cards about politics before the day was over.  A bit too much alcohol can fuel many unnecessary arguments, and this is a scene that gets played out in millions of families every year.

I added my own unnecessary comments in earlier years, those holidays before I had discovered the freedom from the use of alcohol or others drugs that I now cherish.  There will be lost lives this holiday season, on the highways, in the homes and the bars from people out of control with alcohol use.  But there is another way to live.  This Christmas and every Christmas.

Perhaps you know some one who continues to drink too much.  Seeking the guidance of Al-Anon for yourself and information about Alcoholics Anonymous for him or her is generally no more than a phone call away.  The holidays deserve to be enjoyed by all.  Is there some thing you can do to help some one else before the new year begins?

I am not your typical shopper.  I don’t run to shop the day after Thanksgiving.  However, don’t get me wrong;  I am not above a good bargain.   I simply choose to wander the malls, leisurely, until something strikes my fancy.  I will pay my visit before the holiday actually arrives, but in the meantime, I do believe there are many additional ways to spread the joy of the season.

The first one, and the easiest I might add, is to look into the eyes, often very tired eyes, of the other travelers on my path.  Acknowledge them with a smile.  Every one is deserving of a smile.  And my own heart smiles when I pass one to some one else.  Secondly, put a few coins in the Salvation Army bucket that generally stands at the entrance of every store during the holiday season.  If the published reports are correct, there will be more hungry people this holiday season than in many past decades.

In every community  there are innumerable gift giving opportunities.   Womens’ shelters need gifts for both the women and their children.   Check the yellow pages and make a call.  At the church I attend, we have a Christmas Angel Tree and we can select an angel from the tree and purchase the suggested gift for the young boy or girl who is likely to receive only that gift we buy.

Even though I have never met the children I have bought gifts for, it does not take away from the pleasure of making the selection.  Spreading joy, in any capacity, is good for one’s heart and mind.  If we all did one small thing this holiday season to make it more joyful for some one else, the ringing of the bells around the world would be heard far and wide.

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