Friday, December 23, 2011

Visibly and Verbally Thankful

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year- all this merriment- REALLY?

I don't really know anyone who doesn't have some kind of relationship issues at this time of year. There is uncle X who is always a jerk, grandma is grumpier than she has ever been, your parents are turning into children or your kids are acting like they would rather be with their friends than with their step brothers and sisters. Maybe it's just one of those things or maybe it is ALL of those things with some more added in. This time of the year is hard in so many ways.

Hopefully I can give you some ammunition to fight being cynical or turning into the Scrooge yourself.

A couple fo days ago I went with a group of friends to an assisted living place in our local community. I didn't arrange any of the evening except for asking a friend to bring his guitar. I didn't know that much of our group are not the singing type. I like to sing and so I figured it would be fun and maybe some of the people there would be encouraged. The unexpected happened.

When we arrived the door is locked because you just never know who might come in to take grandpa out and not bring him back. The maturing people were finishing dinner and this lady, who was in better shape than most we met over the evening, came up and said, "You better start pretty soon because we are getting tired and we want to go 'home'". That was the first person we talked with or who talked with us. Getting off to good start.

Enough of the group showed up for us to start at the time we were supposed to, but right before we started another lady said, "I hope you're not singing about Santa and reindeer because we are tired of those kinds of songs". It's a good thing the "song-picker" had picked carols rather than those songs or we might have gotten the boot.

I encouraged a couple of people sitting toward the front to sing and they both said. "We can't sing". OK- I'm getting the idea that these people are kind of grumpy and they want to go home, but we're singing anyway.

We started singing and even those who "can't sing" were singing along with as much as they knew the music. At one point in the first set of songs one of the older guys was crying pretty hard. Then it got to me- these people are dying pretty soon, I wonder who will come to see them this Christmas? I wonder if they have to spend Christmas alone bc their family lives somewhere else? No wonder they are grumpy, they probably feel like they have been abandoned.

When we finished singing the girls past out some cookies, even though some of the people said they didn't want them they all took them. Even though they didn't want to sing, they did. Even though they wanted to be grumpy, they weren't in the end, in fact they were really soft and tender after we cracked their hard shells a bit.

Maybe that's what it's gonna take the next couple of weeks for you to get through your celebrations. Maybe they are going to feel more like torture than celebrations but maybe you can change that. Maybe you can be thankful and joyful in the midst of some crotchety mean people. If that is going to happen I think you had better have a plan before you enter the event.

Try to think about what others are dealing with this time of year. Maybe they are sad because this is the 1st Christmas without someone they love very much. Maybe someone was just really mean to them, or someone just cut them off in traffic. Maybe they are a customer service person and it is December 26th and everybody and their dog is coming into their store today to tell them why "You wrecked my Christmas". We just never know what people are going through.

Many people are going through some hard times right now, be a friend. Many need someone to talk to, like the 96 year old lady at the center. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give and model for our kids is the giving of ourselves- that is what God did and do you suppose there was an intended lesson in that gift some 2000 years ago?

We have much to be thankful for and it is not ok for us to be thankful on the inside, we need to be both visibly and verbally thankful. You might be surprised at how much different you can help someone else to be by your attitude. You might also be surprised at how much less grumpy you are.

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