In just a few days, another Christmas season will be upon us. For many of us, we will gather together with our loved ones, open some presents, eat lots of turkey and other goodies and enjoy the beauty that comes with this time of year.
Traditionally, Christmas has been a time when families come together to celebrate, and despite the many changes that have occurred in our society, coming together as a family continues to be the focus of this holiday. We associate a number of warm and positive emotions with this season and try to focus on being thankful for the blessings that we have in our lives. While this is a wonderful thing, it is important for us to remember that there are people around us who do not have these things this Christmas and who find this time a potent reminder of what they are lacking in their lives.
If you have lots of food to eat, be thankful. Many people struggle to put food on the table and this Christmas have had to choose between gifts for their children and food for themselves.
If you have a roof over your head this Christmas, be thankful. There are many in this province who will spend this Tuesday in a shelter worrying how they are going to find a place to live for themselves and maybe their children. Others are part of the hidden homeless who move from couch to couch with friends, do not have a steady or permanent place to call their home and are forced to live day to day. From the warmth of your home, consider making a donation to one of the charities that fight homelessness throughout the upcoming year so that these people may have a better Christmas next year.
If you have lots of food to eat, be thankful. Many people struggle to put food on the table and this Christmas have had to choose between gifts for their children and food for themselves. When your tummy is full this Tuesday, consider donating your time or money on a monthly basis to help those organizations that struggle to fill this gap for people, and not just donate during the drive leading up to Christmas.
If you are surrounded by family and friends, be thankful. Many people will be sitting alone in their homes because they do not have family or who, for whatever reason, are estranged from other people. While surrounded by your loves ones this Christmas, think about how you can reach out to anyone you know who is alone and invite them to share in regular gatherings throughout the coming year; loneliness doesn’t just occur on special occasions.
If you are feeling happiness this Tuesday, be thankful. Many people are experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one and are feeling pain and grief. For others, Christmas is a time of crises and chaos as those in their lives struggling with addiction have these issues magnified by the spirit of partying and celebration around the season. Make a commitment to reach out to those you know who lost someone throughout the coming months and be aware that not everyone associates Christmas “spirits” with positive memories; try to find a way to respect their need to avoid such situations, no matter what time of the year.
As you celebrate this Christmas, I would encourage you to take a little time to think about what it would take to extend the positive feelings of this season throughout the year. Our society is one in which we place a high priority on family; is there a way that we can extend our understanding of what constitutes our family to include a broader range of people within our community? Is there some small step or commitment that you could make this year to help make our community one in which everyone feels included and everyone has a place where they feel they belong and where they matter? Is there room in your home and in your heart to make space for more people around your family table?
Merry Christmas to you and all of your family, no matter how you choose to define your family this year.
Brian Hodder is an LGBTQ2 activist and works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.