A couple of days ago my friend Eric Preston sent me a short piece he had written about his take on the holidays. It resonated with me, and I asked his permission to reprint it here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Here it is:
Christmas–the time of year that as a child you wait for all year. There is so much excitement surrounding shopping, family visiting from afar, decorating the house, sending Christmas cards, baking cookies, making Grandma’s peanut butter balls, Santa’s delivery of the toys you so desperately wanted all wrapped up in a three to four week flurry beginning just after Thanksgiving.
Flash forward to adulthood and so many of us still cling to those heartfelt memories. But now, instead of genuine excitement, we look to many of the festivities with dread, family tensions fresh enough to still hurt, work parties, block parties, school parties, church parties, too many parties, rushing to buy or make gifts for everyone on that ever increasing list, trying to find the time to get the house decorated, to keep up with the Elf on the Shelf, to keep up the facade that is Christmas for our little ones.
As a 45 year old father and grandfather, I find it difficult to admit that I’ve had but two good Christmases as an adult, neither of which had anything to do with the kids. Christmas has become a selfish time of year. Although I was raised in church, I am far from religious, but the concept taught me in my youth, “It is better to give than to receive,” seems to have been forgotten, and far too often by me as well.
The two Christmases that stand out for me as good ones were all about doing for others. One of the years I got myself roped into delivering dinners to those less fortunate in our community. For about a week leading up to the event, I found myself dreading the day, making sarcastic quips to friends about it. But when the day came, the genuine smiles and gratitude shown by those receiving the dinners dissolved my cynicism and underscored what I had been taught as a child.
The second Christmas, though not nearly as selfless, was the year after my wife and I were married. Desperate to be “that” couple, although we didn’t know it then, we spent two days making homemade jams, cookies, bars and candies. We neatly packaged and decorated our goods and delivered them to friends, family and work colleagues. Everyone loved what we had done for them.
It is amazing the appreciation people have for homemade gifts, oft remarking they don’t know how you find the time, or that they could never do what you do. The answer is simple. You make the time. You turn off the TV and eliminate other distractions, putting the focus on the pleasure others will gain by the fruit of your labors. By eliminating the desire for receiving gifts and, instead, remembering that the more we give, the more we receive, we can reclaim a more grown-up version of the childlike excitement Christmas should be bringing to all.
Thank you Eric, for putting into words what I know many of us feel at this time.