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Giving Back – Making a Difference in 2024December 28, 2023
The season of goodwill, love, and cheer is, for many, a time of sadness, reflection, and isolation which contributes to what some describe as “the holiday blues.” Even those of us who look forward to the holidays can feel waves of diverse emotions as we attempt to handle the demands required of us to create a meaningful and festive atmosphere.
The state of much of the world today could use, for lack of a better word, repair. The rift within communities can lead to mistrust, fear, gloom, misunderstanding, distress, and uncertainty. What some see with total clarity others insist is ambiguity. People feel exhausted and angry, fearful to openly observe a religious celebration. Holiday cheer is just not here. We can acknowledge the state of the world and the state of our well-being while recognizing the importance of keeping hope alive as we do not give up.
One thing we can do is to allow ourselves space and time to review what is important to us — our values. When we reflect and focus on what drives us to live a certain way, we can gather our inner strength to go on. We can commit to living our values each day, in both small and big ways.
Recently I spoke with a group of young people about values. We agreed that our values are our personal ideas about what is and isn’t important. Our values help us discern what is good and what isn’t. It is by being aware of our values that we can differentiate what is right from what is wrong. It is our personal values that give meaning and direction to our lives. Generally, we develop our values based on our experiences within our family, culture, and the larger environment in which we live. What we valued at one point in our life may no longer carry the same weight it once did. Sometimes a life-changing event forces us to reevaluate and realign with our values. Appreciating our own growth and evolution regarding what we value can be transformative.
As the young people listened to each other describe their personal values (perseverance, optimism, forgiveness, discipline, among others), we considered ways to convey these values in the way we live our lives. We wondered whether neighbors, colleagues, strangers, children, and grandchildren would be able to identify what our values are by observing how we live our lives.
Our values are foundational to our beliefs, our interests, and the choices we make. Perhaps, in times of stress around the holidays, we can reflect on how we value ourselves and others with our acts of kindness and compassion. Kindness to ourselves and others strengthens our immune system, self-esteem, and emotional resilience. I remind us all that kind acts can improve our happiness and our physical health. These acts spread. At a time when the world seems to be breaking apart and people are demonstrating against each other, we can take it upon ourselves to bring light where there is darkness. Each of us can contribute to repairing the world. What better time to start than these holidays?
Finding Balance: Navigating the Need for Help Without Feeling Like a Burden
A friend recently shared with me that she hurt her back and needs assistance doing even simple tasks. She is hesitant to ask for help for fear of being a burden. Yet, that is what is needed for her to heal and avoid re-injuring herself. Not the burden part; the helping part. What were “easy” tasks have become painful and potentially harmful for her. She must prioritize rest while exercising extreme caution when moving. It’s a temporary situation, but in our hectic lives, even a brief setback can feel overwhelming.
Who hasn’t been there? We often find ourselves in a situation where we know exactly what we should (or shouldn’t) do to aid a recovery from a physical or emotional incident. However, putting that plan into action, one that often requires others to step up in ways they typically don’t, can be a challenge. Ironically, we may be first in line to support friends and family in their healing journeys, but when it comes to seeking help for ourselves, we hesitate to ask.
As we explore these tips, let’s reflect on how to accept help with grace, while acknowledging the beauty and strength in vulnerability and interdependence.
Embrace Acceptance: Accept your current situation and understand that it’s temporary. Recognize that needing help is part of the healing process.
Prioritize Rest: Give priority to rest and recovery. Understand that what used to be easy tasks may now be challenging and potentially harmful. It’s crucial to exercise caution in your movements.
Develop Patience: Recovery, whether from a physical or emotional setback, requires patience. It’s about adapting to the present situation and understanding that healing takes time.
Resist the Urge to Overdo: Avoid pushing yourself to engage in activities that might hinder your recovery. Listen to your body and respect its limits.
Set Realistic Goals: Compare your current abilities to realistic goals, not to your past capabilities. Aim for progress in a measured and sensible manner.
Learn to Tune In: Pay close attention to what your body needs. If you’re tiring more easily, it’s a sign to limit your activities and allow yourself time to heal.
Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. There’s no shame in not being able to perform tasks as you used to. Adapt and find alternate ways to manage your daily activities, while noticing feelings of disappointment and sadness.
Modify Activities: Recognize activities that you cannot currently do, like heavy lifting or bending down. Find ways to adjust while being mindful to your current capabilities.
Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help: If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to ask, even if it’s a stranger helping you with a door. Remember, most people are happy to help.
Acknowledge the Gift of Receiving: Understand that by accepting help, you’re not only acknowledging your own needs but also offering others the opportunity to be of service, which can be a rewarding experience for them.
Reflect on the Relationship Dynamics: Recognize that accepting help can deepen and enrich your relationships with others, fostering a sense of community and support.
Remember, acknowledging the need for assistance and accepting help gracefully is not a sign of weakness, but an act of strength and self-awareness. It allows for a deeper connection with others and a better understanding of ourselves.
Daily Reflection and Kindness Gesture for December
During the holiday season and amidst the backdrop of often grim world news, a meaningful daily habit could be to set aside a few minutes each evening for reflection and a kindness gesture. Start by reflecting on one positive thing that happened during your day or something you are grateful for, no matter how small. This practice helps to maintain a balanced perspective and cultivate gratitude.
Then, commit to one small act of kindness each day. It could be as simple as sending an encouraging message to a friend, leaving a positive note for a family member, volunteering in your community, or even just offering a smile to a stranger. In a world that can sometimes feel overwhelming, these small acts of kindness and moments of gratitude can be a beacon of light, both for you and for those around you.