Ask anyone if they think Christmas has become too commercial and they will most likely answer with an unequivocal “YES!” Stores bring out the Christmas decorations earlier every year. Kids’ wish lists get longer and pricier. Parents go deeper into debt each year. Christmas morning dawns to frenzied ripping of gift wrapping, with the contents of each package barely examined before being discarded in favor of the next package. By noon the gifts have been abandoned, and the kids head for the hills as soon as Christmas dinner is finished. Not unexpectedly, the true spirit of Christmas is often lost in all this.
The message of Christmas – love – is one that everyone should be able to appreciate, regardless of his or her religion, but each year I find it more difficult to feel the spirit. Fortunately, I always travel home to Illinois to spend this holiday with my family and the impending visit gets me excited. This year is no different. Until a week ago it didn’t even feel like Christmas, but then I headed north and, as usual, I started to get excited about spending the holidays with my family. I’m feeling a lot of gratitude right now. I have two whole weeks to spend with my Dad and the rest of my family and I treasure every moment. I had the most amazing year of my life as I traveled around the world for six months, including fulfilling my lifelong dream of going on safari in Africa. I am fortunate to have so many loving friends. And I’ve been thinking about how I can give back even a little bit of what I’ve been given.
One of the commitments I made when I left my job to pursue my dreams of travel and writing was to be a better person. I was determined to treat everyone with loving kindness. To live in non-judgment. To refrain from to gossip. To help others wherever possible. To always treat others with respect. I believe that the mere act of smiling at someone can brighten his or her day. And I believe these acts become self-propagating – I smile at someone, so they smile at the next person they meet, and before you know it, the whole world is smiling. So this Christmas, I’ve decided to rededicate myself to this effort by performing random acts of kindness all year long. Maybe the next time I eat in a restaurant, I’ll anonymously pay for the table next to me. Or I’ll pay the toll for the car behind me. Or maybe I’ll help a senior citizen carry her groceries. Whatever presents itself, that’s what I’ll do. As the old saying goes, ’tis better to give than to receive. And it’s my little way of trying to make this world a little better place in which to live.