Many of my childhood Christmas memories include sharing big dinners at Grandma’s, story-telling with family members, playing on the frozen pond with siblings and cousins, or just singing carols together.
In reality, not everyone has nostalgic memories this time of the year.
Last Thursday I talked to a teacher about a boy (whom I will call Johnny) who was having a hard time in her class. Specifically, he was shutting down, and no matter what strategies she tried, he wasn’t responding.
From what I know about his challenges outside of school, I was not surprised. It’s hard to care about school when you struggle with being cared for outside of school.
Friday was the last day of the semester, and our teachers had brought potluck lunches to share together. Some of them had also started a secret-Santa gift-exchange with one another.
After I arrived home that evening, Johnny’s teacher sent me this long and touching text:
“…After our situation with Johnny Thursday I prayed for him and prayed for him on the way to work Friday. I saw him yesterday in the hall and he glared at me–not surprising after the day before. And honestly since he has never returned my ‘hello’ I stopped greeting him.”
“As I drove away from school to pick up my daughter, I saw Johnny walking along the road. It just came over me to stop and give him my secret Santa gift of candy in a Santa jar. As I rolled down my window he had a look of confusion but said thanks for the gift.”
“As I began to pull away he called me back to proudly tell me he passed his Biology and Algebra class. Then… He smiled… I have never seen him smile and especially toward me… He said, ‘And next year I am going to pass your class!'”
“Whether he does or doesn’t pass next semester I’ll appreciate the intention to and especially that smile. Merry Christmas and have a restful break!”
That story warmed my heart for a lot of reasons.
Sometimes our most effective way to reach others is in the small things we do. Whether it’s attending their performances, stopping for chats at lunch, or taking time to give someone special attention–these little acts go a long way.
I once heard a lesson on learning to respond to difficult people with the “opposite spirit”. It can be disarming when negative, grumpy, or unproductive attitudes are confronted with positive, optimistic, and action-oriented ones.
Sometimes our efforts will be dismissed or ignored.
But you never know when someone’s scowl may turn to a smile when you take time to serve them.
Maybe you have special memories this time of year. Perhaps yours are not so positive. Most likely, you will interact with someone who has a hard time cherishing this time of the year.
When you take time to share with others, it may not only enrich their lives, but you may learn the value of the old maxim: It is is more blessed to give than receive.
My hope is that you enjoy meaningful relationships and rest this season.
And may your New Year find you committed to making meaningful memories for yourself and for others.