The Holidays: Connection and Community to bring us together, into 2021
Connection and community are the two things that stood out for us, a renewed appreciation of both. Whether you celebrate the religious aspects of the holiday or not, connection and community are its highlights. People want to join with family and friends and spend time together in meaningful ways. This personal renewal fortifies us for another big effort, another leap of faith into the next year and whatever mysteries it is going to reveal to us. It reminds us again of what is good and powerful.
Good cheer, positive memories, and conviviality are in the air. We can smell them, feel them and hear them in our physical and human surroundings. It’s a time when people send cards, good wishes, gifts, and food to each other to maintain relationships with relatives, members of a faith community, neighbors, and associates. It’s a time of sincere outreach to others, not just jingles, shopping, and holiday humbuggery. The thought is what counts, is an old saying, and all the more weathered and correct. Thinking of loved ones, past and present, makes us strong, and helps us remember who we are, and who we were. It gives us the inspiration to go forward.
This year, the commercialism has been stripped away. The lesson we are all learning is one of priority, what matters, what really matters: each other and our time here together. We are focused on sincere human connection as our vulnerability confronts us constantly. So how can we connect when we cannot really connect, gather together at Christmas parties, and hug our beloved ones? How can we fill that space, that yearning for our own others?
First, let’s think about how other people may be feeling. This in and of itself can help us. Those who live alone are most vulnerable now; they ache for human contact. This time of year underscores their isolation and loneliness. The elderly who used to celebrate with a spouse and children, yet are now forgotten and left with their memories of festivities past, are another particularly vulnerable group. They are left with the diminishing echoes, often in houses that used to sing with holiday cheer. Although they may initially shun your initiative to connect, do persist. Their mental health is on the line. They are sitting in front of screens all day with reminders of how everyone else is together, connected, and has people but they don’t.
Your own holiday will be enriched by inclusion of isolated people. If you cannot include them physically, sing outside their doors after you wish them happy holidays. Decorate their doors with cheerful decorations which just have to be bright and personal, not glitzy and pricey. Have your kids make cards. Doing something personal is much more meaningful than dropping off a toy for a toy drive or donating food for the homeless. Make a connection to a live person you know or who is in your physical, family, work, worship, or neighborhood circle. Be the happy, giving Santa to the grinches around you. Give the gift of direct human caring. Reach out and draw them back, remind them what it can feel like.
People also want to feel part of a community. It makes them feel valued, especially when they are forgotten. Hearing words like you’re my neighbor, we go to the same coffee shop, we go to the same church reinforce the feeling of belonging to a community of other human beings. And being part of a group makes for psychological wellbeing as well as feeling cared for. Extend yourself and you will uplift the other person, yourself, and the community you belong to.
Talk to them, the human song, the littlest thing in the world, and yet one of the most powerful. Listen to them, let them tell you about themselves and their memories. You’ll both be much the better for it.
This season, create connection and community through acts of thoughtfulness and communication in a personal way. Specifically now, when a physical presence may be precluded, figure out how to reach across the divide and open doors.