Sunday, December 7, 2008

Free Christmas Joy

Ideas abound on the internet and elsewhere this time of year for ways to spend less during the holiday season. The desire to live more simply is also a common theme as are articles on how to combat stress and the holiday blues.
Our Christmas celebration has changed drastically over the past four years. My husband had a stroke in 2004 that left him with partial right-sided paralysis and aphasia. He was a creative handyman around the house but now we have to rely on others or hire someone if I cannot do it myself. And he is super sensitive to the cold weather so doesn't venture outside on days when the temps are below freezing. These are just minor details of the 180 degree turnaround our life has taken.
The holidays always seem to crystalize the changes we've had to make. We used to get a tree that was at least nine feet tall and it was my husband's job to set it up and string the lights. Obviously that tradition is a thing of the past. We now have a small artificial tree that sits on a table. At the end of the holidays I wrap it up and my son carries it downstairs. The following December, he carries it back up and except for a few dislodged ornaments, the tree is up and decorated.
One of the things I have learned these past few years is how much a kind word or action, a random act of kindness, can mean. Whether or not it is obvious that someone is going through a difficult season, even a small act of kindness can have a huge effect. I have been on the receiving end many times and so speak from experience. And since we all know that it's better to give than to receive, I think that a random act of kindness can go a long way in our struggle to find meaning in this hectic holday season.
Rowena Alegria, writing in Stroke Smart magazine this month, suggests just that. Spread the Kindness This Season is her article giving 31 ideas that we can use to make someone's day or holiday a little brighter. Here are a few of her ideas (and a couple of mine thrown in). See if you can't find something you can do.
Pay a visit, lend a hand, say hello

Wave back at children who wave at you (or wave first!)

Share a smile, forgive mistakes, lend an ear

Open a door, let another go first, be tolerant

Offer a hug, compliment a stranger, praise someone's cooking

Check on a neighbor who lives alone

Reach an item on a high shelf for someone shorter than you

Help someone carry or lift a heavy item

Bring in a neighbor's mail on a cold day

Shovel a neighbor's driveway

Remove obstacles from a road or walking path

Pick up litter (this is a favorite of my husband when we take walks!)

When you receive superior service, let that person's manager or supervisor know

Offer to babysit so a busy mother can do some holiday errands

Take cookies to a neighbor

Send a card to someone out of town to let them know you're thinking of them
Want more inspiration? Visit The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation's website for testimonies from people who have received or provided an unexpected act of kindness.
So there you have it: the one-size-fits-all solution to spending less, relieving stress and combating holiday blues. Try it today....and tomorrow....and the day after that....


Shannon ( said...

Your post was beautifully written. Allow me to brighten your holidays by telling you that you are one of the three winners in my Pillsbury giveaway! WHen you find a moment, email me at with your address so we can mail the package out to you.

Maureen Hayes said...

A terrific post!! Everyone thinks gifts have to cost money to mean something, but isn't it true the ones you remember for years weren't the "big ticket" items, but the act of kindness when you really needed it?

I love that you gave practical ideas of things people can do, most of us WANT to help, but sometimes we are limited by our own imaginations. I am going to try to incorporate some of these ideas each day of my life.

Thanks again for a wonderful post. I hope your holidays are happy and healthy ones.

Renee said...

What a nice post. There is so much loss to process and accept when illness comes into our lives. Your random acts of kindess brings the best gifts to the front of the line! Gifts that bring us joy.
Thanks for reminding us.

The Bee Folks - Lori Titus said...

I have called managers over when a waitress has given superior service. Usually when this happens, the waitress is uber busy (or thinks she is), and I tell her I would like to speak with a manager, but I don't tell her why. You know you have a good waitress when they do so with a sad look on their face. Then, when the manager comes over expecting a barking mad customer, and he hears that you actually want to leave a COMPLIMENT... I usually tell the manager that whatever he is paying the waitress, he needs to increase it, and tell him specifically what she did that I thought was particularly special. It seems to make the managers day just as much as the waitress's. And I always tell the waitress what I told the manager before leaving the restaurant, especially if the manager has not told her first.