What Connects Thanksgiving, Christmas, Solstice, and New Year’s Day?

A Time for Reflection, Recalibration, and Assessment


Happy Whatever

To say that we are in the holiday season would be an understatement. I read that from 1 November – 15 January 7 major religions celebrate 25 holidays. Tis the season. This is, of course, part of the continuing dialogue over the made-up war on Christmas. Acknowledging that this season has meaning to beliefs other than yours hardly seems to be naked aggression. But I digress.

Not One Special Day, but a Season of Thoughtfulness

I would like to suggest that we think about this season not as a string of holidays and events. We would do better to think about these days as a season of reflection, gratitude, and commitment. We could go into the following months with a different mindset if we did so.

Here is what I am thinking. What if we came into the season with something like the following in our collective heads?

Ask Yourself Four Questions. Then Answer them.

In the spirit of all the special days declared by so many beliefs, a proposal. I suggest using the period from 1 November through 31 January to think about the following:

o For what am I grateful? As a person, as an American, as a human being? I don’t care if you feel grateful to God, to Odin, to the Universe, or to Luck. The point is, take a moment every day to reflect on something that makes your life better. I know some of you do this already. Some of you have written about what an enriching experience this is. The rest of us should follow your example. It is all too easy to get into a woe is me mode. Daily gratitude can break that mold. And when you think about it, most of us have a TON to feel grateful about.

o How might I pay it forward? You learn as an adult that it is way more fun to give than to receive. Put that into practice. You may know that someone has a task they hate to face that you could take for them, at least once. Have a personal habit that drives your Significant Other bonkers? Commit to clear that up. Heck, if nothing else, the next time you go through a drive through, tell the cashier you are also paying for the car behind you. Get in the habit of doing a good thing at least daily. Mr. Rogers would tell you that is a good thing.

o If I knew I was leaving this life in a month, how would I use the time? Have someone you lost touch with? Had a fight that left wounded feelings all around? Have something high on your bucket list that remains only a theory? Don’t let any of that be true come 1 February. This is something of a combination New Year’s resolutions and a Day of Atonement exercise. I have news for you. You actually don’t know how many cards you are dealt. You could be out of here tomorrow. Worse yet, someone you meant to close with is gone before you made that closure. Now that opportunity is lost forever. Lost because of the choices you made – or chose not to make. Get on it.

o What in the world makes me truly angry or sad? What can I do about it? None of us can single handedly end slavery, declare world peace, or give Donald Trump a clue. But we can do something. Great things often happen one step at a time. Pick an issue beyond your close-in life, find a way to engage meaningfully, and step up to it. If it’s not a bit hard to do, a bit daunting to think of, a bit out of your comfort zone, you are not there. Don’t accept that. I have a sign on my desk I love for its power to remind. It says, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Amen.

Shall We Do This?

What do you think, Dear Readers? Might we celebrate in this way? Shall we declare a Season of Reflection and Dedication? How about taking the whole 90 days of “the season” to think? To think a bit longer and deeper about who we are and what is going on around us? This year the season is already underway, so you would only be committing to a half-season for this first run.

Yeah, I know this sounds a bit like a News Year’s resolution, but there is a difference here. Committing over a longer period and to more than one action makes a difference. Fixating on less usually results in less. In every gym where I have ever been a member, the regulars stayed away starting on New Year’s Day until Valentine’s Day. By then, the resolution crowd had burned itself out and we had our gym back to ourselves. What we are talking about here is deeper, broader, more important.

Dare we commit to living more intentionally? If we could do this every year for “the season,” we may well approach the rest of the year differently. If you were to write your own eulogy, would you have enough of this kind of substance to say, “I did OK with the time I had.”

Happy holidays everyone. In spite of it all, we have much to celebrate, much to be grateful for, and much we can do. Let us begin.

       Bill Clontz

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