Christmas can be a great time of learning for people of all faiths.
Yes, it is historically about the Christ child, and what the adult Jesus did for humanity, but there’s more to it for people of all faiths. So this blog isn’t about any particular faith, but more about what makes us all human.
Two four letter words are the ultimate common denominators we can all celebrate at Christmas – give and love. They are action words that when done well can eclipse the “culture war” over Christmas.
Giving is the one thing that is cemented to the meaning of Christmas. Between the Magi, Santa Claus and Charles Dickens, we Americans have seen to that. But as much as we like the idea of giving, the shadow of commercialization threatens to darken that too, if we let it. That’s where our second four letter word may save the day, literally, at Christmas – love.
Sadly, love does not just exude from us, even at Christmas. For many of us, “bah, humbug” comes more easily. Speaking only for myself, of course, I need a strategy at the holiday times to facilitate love in whatever event is at hand. This month we will have some challenging social groupings: workplace parties, neighborhood gatherings, religious events, and yes, family meals that include members we do not see all that often. It is much easier to talk about loving others as ourselves till we come face-to-face with some who are challenging people. We humans often mask our insecurities by mentally, even verbally, judging the people around us. With family, we all have a huge reservoir of memories on which to draw. We try to dance around our judgments with polite formalities, and avoidance where needed. Ironically, most people coming to events that include challenging people fear bad encounters, or even a ruining of the whole atmosphere. We welcome what some now call “adulting” in the room.
For what they are worth, let me hazard some suggestions that I have seen or tried. These are especially directed to any of us who happen to host such events, and have the most control over the environment. Keep in mind that the objective is to encourage love in the midst of our giving. Challenging people tend to exert themselves in a vacuum of positive stuff in a group. Do not give negative input a footing. You are creative. You can do this.
1. Ask people to come prepared to give positive input about other members, and some healthy humor.
2. Ban alcohol, drugs, devices, politics, and insults.
3. Before during, or after the actual meal, be prepared to “adult” by example. Lead out and model for others what you want to see by way of positive comments and humor. Speak to the others as a group. Then call on someone that you know will follow up with more of the same.
4. Pray at the meal time, or ask someone to do so who is comfortable in doing it.
5. Ask for volunteers to help with clean-up.
6. Before too many people start to leave, thank them for coming and being such a part of this great holiday.
The hardest part of this for me is my personal “comfort zone” with people. Realize that the same is true for everyone there, and everyone is learning together to make each holiday an improvement over the last one. Comfort zones are emotional habits. Habits are tricky things. They have an inertia about them. They take lots of repetition for change. But as they get established, they are easier to keep in motion. Comfort zones work that way too, they are also habits we have.
Here is to a happier holiday for all of us. You are creative. You can do this.