Gratitude is something I try to practice all year, jotting down different things I am thankful for as they come to mind. During the month of November, I, like many, was especially aware of all my blessings.
However, when Thanksgiving rolled around, I was not feeling particularly appreciative. In fact, my chest felt quite heavy. As my inner turmoil became evident, my husband looked over at me and asked, “What’s wrong? You kind of have this face…”
“I’m not sure,” I responded. The burden just would not leave. I was especially sensitive and tried hard to conceal it, afraid that I might break if someone said the wrong thing.
A Thanksgiving Encounter to Make Me Think
As we were driving to our Thanksgiving dinner destination, we saw a homeless man begging on the side of the road. This is common where we live, directly on the border of Mexico. My 6-year-old son looked out the window towards the back of the van and said, “Mama, I want to give him some oranges and bananas.” We have discussed the importance of generosity and giving to the needy. My husband and I regularly encourage our children to buy people warm meals or snacks when we have the means.
My oldest daughter, age 3, chimed in, “Oh, I just want to give him a sweet kiss!” I smiled and swallowed hard, it was all I could do to keep from bawling — this powerful moment caught me by surprise. I looked down at my feet as the man approached my window, and we kept driving.
As the day went on, I recognized the source of my melancholy: many around me are hurting, and I feel helpless.
Perhaps you have experienced a loved one going through an especially difficult time (job loss, divorce, the death of someone close to them, etc.), or something like it. It utterly breaks your heart. You want nothing more than to make the sun rise for them again.
This has been one of the hardest lessons I have learned as an adult — that I can’t save everyone. In fact, I can’t rescue a single person. When I was in my naive twenties, I truly thought I could save the world!
Year-Round Christmas Spirit
Presently, when others are struggling with depression, I envision them drowning, barely hanging on with each gasp of breath they take. I picture myself on land, or on a boat, tossing one of those lifesaving donuts in their direction. “Take it!” I demand. Arms flailing and jumping up and down, I want nothing more than to leap in the water and swim them to shore. Only, I’m not the best swimmer. And doing such a thing could cost me my life, too.
Instead, I wait, and I pray. Sometimes I have to look another direction, and walk away while tears sting my eyes.
The holidays are certainly a magical time, inciting nostalgia and merriment. But let us not forget that real life still happens all around us. May we carry the spirit of Christmas not just in December, but year-round: practicing love, hospitality, generosity and sharing joy (even on days when we need to choose it).
And for moments that feel particularly overwhelming, let us remember that while we can do our part to make our section of the world a little better, we cannot save humanity. The truth is, someone else already has.