Updated: Mar 5, 2020
It’s a December afternoon in Pittsburgh so one might not be surprised that it’s a bit gray and spitting rain. I am back from a forest bath or at least that’s what I call it when I am too lazy to run, or when conditions prevent me from doing so...like today when walking on wet leaves was preferable to the muddy, puddled trail. No matter the conditions, nature moves me to contemplation and I am feeling compelled to speak about Christmas spirit.
‘Tis the season but what season is that? There is undoubtedly hustle and bustle, lots of people, pressure and presents to buy, but despite the chaos, the prevailing message of Christmas is connection and caring. It is this aspect of the secular holiday that brings joy. No matter how much humans evolve we cannot escape what is wired into our nature…”emotional connectivity remains a core part of being human”. (Sreenivasan/Weinberger) It is home and family, friends and holiday parties that physically bring us together. The Christmas gifts...symbols of love, acceptance, and connection. A present indicates that someone has seen us, knows us, recognizes our needs, considered our situation, listened to our desires… they have taken the time and made the investment in us...in our well-being and happiness. The gift brings with it some recognition, care, and connection. Even as a giver in anonymous situations, we experience the euphoria of this connection so compassion swells during the holidays. Recognizing the needs of others compels us to reach out… with a gift, donation, or maybe even our time. That connectivity...that energy of love fills the very air during the holiday season. Christmas spirit is essentially about relationships and the joy we derive from them. The lack of connection is what can make the holidays hard to bear by emphasizing the loneliness, loss, and separation that one already feels.
So the question becomes how do we keep connected? How do we make the joy last? How can the spirit of Christmas continue throughout the year? Empathy. Simply seeing others, accepting, engaging, connecting...making time and building relationships...recognizing the value of each individual and reveling in our shared humanity...in this, the spirit of Christmas can last. Perhaps we can join Dickens’ Scrooge in the promise to “ honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. “ Wow...what a wonderful world it would be if the spirit of Christmas… the spirit of generosity, love, compassion, connection, hope, kindness, openness, and peace...if empathy could prevail in our hearts all year. Perhaps let's resolve to try and maybe 2020 can be the year we are all empathy bound.
Happy New Year.