The holiday season is a busy time for most mainly in preparation. There are gifts to buy, food to prepare, parties to plan and attend, meeting work deadlines before the year ends, taking stock of what we accomplished in the prior year and where we fell short in order to start preparing for the upcoming year.
Stress seems to be synonymous with the holidays as we get so caught up in the busyness of this season and lose sight of what truly matters. What do I mean by this? There is one question that is the most important thing we can put our attention towards. The reason is that if we can answer and act on this question it will bring us more joy and fulfillment than anything else we can do for ourselves at this time of year.
So what is this question? It is simple yet elusive to most. Who can I serve?
You see, the holidays often become a time of focusing on oneself. What are the endless errands and tasks that you need to do to make this holiday season enjoyable? Even if you are thinking of purchasing gifts for others and planning parties for your family and friends’ enjoyment, it is all centred around yourself and whether you will be able to pull it all off successfully.
However we lose sight of the fact that there are countless people for whom the holidays are a time of loneliness, sadness and even depression. This is because there are people out there who may not have family who they can spend time with or, if they do, they may be thousands of miles away. Even if they have family they may be separated, divorced or estranged from their children. There may be others who are sick in the hospital or isolated in a nursing home.
This is why we need to ask who can we serve. This is about reaching out to these people who are lonely and isolated because while we are busy preparing for the holidays and augmenting our stress, they may be sad and depressed and spiralling downwards in a different kind of stress.
This will not only help to lift the spirits of someone who needs it but will also create positive feelings inside yourself knowing that you reached out to and helped someone in need. These people are not hard to find because they are all around us.
Start with the next homeless person who you see on the street. Instead of just passing them by and maybe tossing them some change just stop and talk to them. Ask them how they got into this situation and how you can help get them out.
I’m not suggesting that you will be able to solve all of their problems but just acknowledging them and giving them some attention by talking with them with lift their spirits in ways which you cannot imagine. This is because they are not used to people caring about them.
Now, I know that most people could not conceive of doing this but imagine how lives could transform if each of us invited a homeless person to our house for dinner or even invited them to a meal at a restaurant. Imagine how that person would feel receiving this gift of generosity from each of you.
It’s not just homeless people that could use our love and attention. There are countless people in need from kids in orphanages, sick patients in hospitals, lonely seniors in nursing homes and a co-worker who may be going through a separation or divorce or who has recently lost a loved one.
It is not difficult to find people who are in need because they are all around us. So this holiday season, instead of being solely focused on your own needs and concerns spend some time reaching out to those who have nobody else to reach out to or lean on in their lives.
You will stimulate and increase your feelings of joy and fulfillment and transform, not only the life of the person you reach out to, but your own life in the process.
Happy holidays to you all!
Nauman Naeem MD