On December 17, 1843, Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol. In his preface to this influential book he wrote, “I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”
Dickens was keenly aware of the injustices of his day and initially set out to write a political pamphlet to address those issues. Instead, he realized that sharing his concerns in the form of a story would have “twenty thousand times the force.” It is said that his book, which kept selling out in its first 24 printings, left an indelible imprint on the hearts and minds of his fellow citizens in Britain. And indeed, A Christmas Carol continues to challenge the greed and avarice of our society 175 years later!
But if a book of fiction can prompt that much change in hearts and lives, how much more the example of a real life in flesh and blood? We can moan and complain about the social ills of our day, but what good does that do unless we change ourselves?
When the angels visited the shepherds on that first night of Christ’s birth their message was clear. It was good news of God’s good will to all people, and designed to bring us all into a place of love and grace beyond our wildest imaginings.
Here are a few suggestions to make the holiday season special, not only for others but for you as well as you exercise your love and generosity toward others:
1. Make someone’s day!
Often, we go through the routines of our day without even registering the fact that we’re dealing with other human beings.
That clerk, cashier, or attendant could just as well be a robot for the way we sometimes treat them. Instead, look that person in the eye and greet them with a smile. Ask them how their day has been and thank them for their service.
Also, as you drive, be courteous and thoughtful. Be patient and let people into the flow of traffic. Be cheerful and congenial with others.
2. Cultivate a spirit of generosity.
Look for a charitable organization to give to financially. You could: fill a shoebox with treats for a needy child, contribute toward drilling a well for clean water in a third-world country, or donate to your local homeless shelter. If you can, don’t just give, but explore ways to volunteer.
If you encounter a homeless person, buy them a meal. When you drive up to a coffee stand, pay for the coffee of the car behind you. Treat a co-worker to lunch. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to express generosity.
A spirit of generosity flows from a heart full of gratitude, which leads to the next point…
3. Express gratitude freely.
Ingratitude causes us to be grumpy, self-centered and stingy. Despite any hardships or suffering we may be experiencing, we all have much to be thankful for. If there’s any doubt about that, simply journal a list of all the things for which you are grateful. When you think you’ve exhausted those reasons to be thankful, persist in coming up with even more.
Then, think about all the people involved with all those good things in your life and take the opportunity to thank them.
And when you encounter people who didn’t emerge from your list, think of ways to thank them too. Also, share with others the things that you are grateful for. Your gratitude will be contagious and spur them to gratitude as well.
4. Focus on others.
If we’re honest, we probably all have to admit that we spend too much time thinking about ourselves. Instead, focus on others. Think about the struggles and joys that others around you are experiencing. Enter into their joys and challenges and celebrate with them or offer help and empathy.
Call someone you haven’t talked to for a while—ask how they’re doing and wish them well. Think of something to thank them for or compliment them on. If you can think of anyone you’ve been holding a grudge against, forgive them—if not for their sake, then for yours!
5. Spend time with loved ones.
Sometimes it’s easy to overlook or neglect those closest to us. Be intentional about spending time with those you love. Celebrate your relationships. In whatever way is posible connect with those close to you.
Watch your favorite movie together. Play table games and laugh together. Tell them how much they mean to you. Thank them for being a part of your life.
Make these practices a part of your life this holiday season. Practice them well and seek to make them your way of life year round. By doing so, you’ll be a blessing to others, making a positive difference in their lives, and feel more carefree and at peace yourself.
Let your life inspire others to live as you do.