Sunday, December 23, 2012

On Scrooge and the Grinch

Every year, it seems that I hear someone saying they can't wait until the holidays are over.  It starts at Thanksgiving with someone slaving for days to prepare the perfect feast for dozens of relatives.  It ends with a paucity of thank yous and un-met expectations of gratitude for the food, the decorations, the hospitality. . . and the list goes on.

Then, we dive into Back Friday sales keeping our kids out 'til midnight so we can buy them twice as many presents if we get them all for 1/2 price.  We hide the gifts, bribe the kids into good behavior with the promise of dreams coming true on Christmas morning.  Then, we rush through the towers of gifts hardly having time to acknowledge one before moving on to the next. . . places to go, people to see and more gifts to unwrap.

Six weeks of greed can be exhausting.  Agreed?  It's enough to turn the most ambitious among us into Scrooges and Grinches.

By New Year's we're laden with guilt after our binge and ready to make restitution with diets and budget cuts and promises that next year will be different.

I can't help but think, "Maybe we're doing it wrong."

The other night we were scheduled to go to a nursing home and sing Christmas carols.  On the way there, Mrs O and I had a disagreement. . . actually, it was just a 'heated agreement!'  We both agreed that I was being a jerk.  There wasn't any disagreement about it!  Things were feeling pretty ugly going into that nursing home and I had all I could do to begin singing.

Then I started singing.

I saw the elderly folk smiling as we performed our amateurish caroling.  I spoke with a World War II veteran who was delighted to have someone who would listen to his stories.  I also met one lady with a strange looking eye.  I don't know if it was glass or if she had cataracts, but it induced a sense of hesitation to say the least.  At the end of the caroling, my two boys ran up to her and wrapped their arms around her.  They wished her a Merry Christmas.

She said, "That was the best Christmas gift ever!"

I left the nursing home that night feeling quite differently than I had upon arriving.  It's not really that surprising when I think about it.  Changing the focus of my actions changed the focus of my thinking.

We can do the same thing with our Christmas traditions.  If you are having trouble with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, try changing the focus of your actions.  If your family is less than grateful for your efforts, put that effort toward an outwardly focused cause.

Invite your ungrateful family members to join you in serving the homeless on Christmas Eve.

Invite some friends to visit an orphanage Christmas morning with a basket of trinkets from the dollar store.

Instead of taking up a seat at your church's Christmas Eve service, volunteer to greet people at the door, decorate, or serve up the snacks.

Changing your focus changes your life.  In fact, it's life inducing, because these are the things life is made of.

Merry Christmas!

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