With the greatest holiday (Halloween) being over and done, the holiday rush is officially in full swing. Before we know it we will be stuffing ourselves with turkey and fixins’ and then it will be time to decorate for Christmas. With that being said, I have a confession to make…I HATE the holidays. I despise them. Call me Scrooge if you want, but I have myriad reasons behind my sour attitude. First of all, my birthday falls on the 21st of December and after a lifetime of trying to compete for birthday attention with Jesus Christ himself, I’ve finally accepted defeat and resigned myself to the fact that no one has money or time to spend on me when they’re already spread so thin with all the Christmas festivities. I also hate clutter. I am a Type-A individual who would be perfectly content to decorate my entire life in varying shades of white and neutral, so filling my house with festive holiday décor brings me an insane level of anxiety. It junks up my space and makes everything seem smaller and more claustrophobic. I used to put stuff all over the house and now I have dwindled it down to one tree and even that pains me. It takes over 3 hours to decorate the thing and another 4 hours to take it down and store everything. And that’s another point of contention-it’s so time consuming! Factor in having to spend money on gifts and spread your time out between work and parties and in my line of work it’s the most stressful time of year…perhaps you can kind of understand my distaste for the hap-happiest season of all.
However, a couple of years ago, I was taught a hard and valuable lesson in gratitude and appreciation that I’ll never be able to forget and I want to share it here with all of you.
It was the day after Thanksgiving, appropriately named Black Friday if you ask me, and as tradition has it I was outside fighting with strings of lights and cords and generally hating my life. I cursed, I spit, I punched some stuff and was a total jerk to my parents who had taken me to buy the tree like we do every year. As I was just about to turn a 6ft strand of twinkling snowflake lights into a noose and hang myself from the porch, I heard someone call to me from the road.
It was my neighbor from up the street, an elderly woman with a disabled son in a wheelchair who seemed to live under poorer circumstances. I used to see her practically every day pushing her adult son to and from the gas station/restaurant at the end of my road. The woman was in her 70s so her son had to at least be in his 40s, and seeing this feeble woman performing this daily task regardless of the weather was enough to break my heart. I realized I hadn’t seen them out recently. I forced a smile and yelled hello.
“I just love how beautiful you decorate your house for Christmas,” she said.
“Ugh, it’s really kind of a pain,” I began to whine. Thankfully she cut me off, because what she had to say is something that truly changed my perspective on life from that moment forward.
“My son used to beg me to walk him down here every night just so we could look at it all lit up. He passed away and this is the first year he won’t be with me for Christmas. Seeing your house used to make him so happy. It’s beautiful and you’re blessed to have such a nice home.”
With that, she waved and continued her long walk in the cold up the street to her house. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. What a despicable, self-centered, ungrateful brat I was. To me, decorating my modest home was an aggravation, yet another task on a long list of things-to-do. Something so small that brought me so much headache had been a tremendous point of joy for years to a perfect stranger and I had never even known. I couldn’t believe how trivial my problems and irritations seemed at that moment. I own a comfortable warm home, I’m healthy, I still have wonderful parents who love me and have their health, I have a car to get me where I need to go and I am by no means a wealthy woman, but I had enough money to cook a feast for my family and friends the day prior with leftovers to live on for a week. This poor woman was facing her first holidays alone after spending a lifetime tending to her handicapped son. Just based on the conditions of her home, I wondered what kind of Thanksgiving meal she had and it made me want to cry.
With a simple compliment this woman brought me down to the ground and taught me a much needed life lesson. So often we focus on the things we DON’T have or the things we WANT and don’t acknowledge the blessings that are right under our nose. I am more guilty than most for that. It’s so important to take even a brief moment daily to just be thankful for the little things that are in fact the BIG things. In an instant your whole life can change and you never truly know just how grateful you are for something or someone until it’s gone. Life is so precious and we all take it for granted. I hope as this holiday season unfolds we ALL take more time to cherish the “annoying” stuff. I hope to think twice before yelling at the car in front of me in mall traffic and instead remind myself that I’m blessed to be able to afford gifts for my friends and be in a warm car instead of walking. I hope as I’m grumbling about the lights and tree that I appreciate the home I am fortunate enough to be decorating. And every time my mother says something that absolutely makes me want to crawl in the oven with the turkey, I want to instead be grateful for the memories I am still able to make with her.
And as heartwarming as this is and as much as I’ve learned, I will continue to dislike the holidays and look forward to the New Year, when I can sling my tree out the back door like a javelin and rip the icicle lights off the roof with great aplomb. Bah humbug.