Outside of summer, these next couple of months are my favorite. It is, as Andy Williams sang in the old holiday classic, the most wonderful time of the year. The reasons for my embracing of November and December have changed as I’ve grown older but the excitement and enjoyment have remained.
As with most kids, the anticipation of both Thanksgiving and Christmas were met with mixed, but similar emotions. The fun of seeing family, playing football with my relatives, eating, laughing and getting presents was certainly a major draw. I remember waiting each evening between Thanksgiving and Christmas for the mailman to deliver that special package from my grandparents and while I couldn’t open it until the 25th, just knowing it was there, shaking it from time to time and anticipating the big day was enough to keep me going.
As I grew older, the importance of the holidays became more distinct for me
in relation to their true purpose — celebrating family and friends. The opportunity to slow down a bit, take time to reflect on others and spend time talking with those I cared about took on a new meaning.
As the years progressed, this thinking expanded beyond family and friends to the many others out there whom I had encountered and even those I did not know. Were they having the same thoughts and feelings?
Were they able to enjoy what was important to them? Were they able to celebrate this exciting time in their lives? For many, I believe they, too, saw the holiday season much as did I. But for many others I feared, the trials and tribulations of everyday life, of making ends meet, of lessening hope for the future, or of what awaited them after the holidays didn’t make for it being the most wonderful time of the year.
A 2015 Healthline survey confirmed that the holidays, while enjoyable for many, can also be time of stress, with 62 percent of the respondents indicating November and December were somewhat — 44 percent — or very — 18 percent — stressful. Most of those responding indicated finances were the primary cause of their stress although family dynamics, unrealistic expectations and lack of time were also cited as major factors.
Add the difficulty of not being able to provide the daily necessities of life for family and self to these “normal” factors that influence us all to some degree, and the stress is compounded.
Additionally, it’s not a stress that goes away after the beginning of the new year.
In the next few weeks, many of us will be providing donations of food, helping to serve Thanksgiving dinner and generally thinking more about those in need in our community — those who don’t have the connections to family that we enjoy, those who don’t have the benefits that we sometimes take for granted. It’s a time when we tend to act more on our thoughts of helping others than just thinking about those in need and wishing we could do more.
I encourage you to take a few moments as the holidays approach to assess
where you might be able to help and where you might be able to make a difference in the life of someone else.
It may be through volunteering or perhaps donating to the many wonderful nonprofits in our community who work daily to help those in need. While the donations of food and serving of Thanksgiving dinners are important, I ask that you look beyond Dec. 31 to provide ongoing support, in whatever way you are able, to help others who are less fortunate.
Those who are in need, aren’t just in need during the holidays. Your commitment now is important — your long-term commitment could make a lasting difference. Let’s all work to make this holiday season, a “most wonderful time of the year.”
The writer is the president and CEO of ACT for Alexandria.