As I wrapped Christmas gifts on Friday and attended a Wreaths Across America event on Saturday, I considered what these two things have to do with life – in general and specifically. With each pull of the tape or string, I recalled many of the times I had wrapped gifts for my family friends in the past. And at the Wreaths Across America service, I listened as the speaker told us about how each wreath is handmade, and how we – as volunteers – can help to straighten and fluff the bow before laying the wreath at each grave or headstone. It’s true, I am a curious person and am always asking the question, why do we do what we do? I resolved – as I listened to the young people play America the Beautiful on violin and Taps on trumpet – that perhaps it is more than giving gifts to loved ones and honoring those who have fought for our freedoms. It could be more about striving to find connection in a hurried, busy world. It could be about making a connection with others, showing our love for our friends and family, and finding meaning amid all the chaos and uncertainty.
Despite being an introvert and appreciating quiet, alone time, I am always looking to connect with those whom I love and who love me. There’s nothing quite like meeting up with a friend to catch up on life, visiting my aging momma, or dialing my sister or best friend hoping one of them will be free to pick up my call. Living away from my loved ones brings the challenge of keeping life simple, so that there is time to visit and reconnect with the important people in my life. I think this is something that has been lost over the years. It used to be that we visited family more often. I remember lots of playtime with cousins. Hide-and-seek, tag, and dodgeball are just some of the memories I have of playing outdoors with my siblings, cousins, and neighborhood friends.
So what has happened since those days of old, especially in our digital world that promised less work and more time to spend with one another? Could it be that we have forgotten what is important and meaningful? Are we sure or unsure of what will really matter at the end of life? Have we lost sight of taking time to slow down and enjoy family time, visits from friends and family, and enjoying those activities that bring connection? What are you doing in your everyday life that helps to dispel today’s rush-rush and cyber world madness? Is there any one thing, event, or moment which you can think of that brings a smile to your face and a glow to your heart?
Communicating through social media helps us to be connected to loved ones in many ways. But is being connected on every possible social media app necessary? Or will one app do? If so, which one? Have any of us even ever had this discussion with our tribe? Have we learned which app will keep us connected until we can meetup in person? If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to do so soon. I know I will be doing so. Keeping up with more than one app is exhausting and actually takes away from how much time we have available to do the things we want or need to and also be connected to our loved ones. So, it is vital to consider our connectivity not only to those important to us, but also how we can keep our communications real, simple, and meaningful.
I have two love languages and one is that of gifting. I was once told that I can’t buy people’s love with gift-giving. It kind of threw me to hear this as it isn’t anything I thought I could ever do – buy people’s love, I mean. For me, giving gifts is how I express my love. Of course, this means that if I love someone to infinity and beyond that my bank account might be dry from all the gifts I’ve bought to express that love. So, as I discerned this comment, I decided I had to get real about my gifting. I had to refocus so that my gifting was truly reflective of the love I was imparting and not affected because someone has a problem accepting my gifts or my gift of love for them.
One way I decided to refocus my gifting was to always strive to choose a gift that truly is meaningful to the person I’m gifting to. Another way is I try to always include a card which expresses how I feel. I know how much I always appreciate words of love and caring with any gift I receive, no matter how small or big it its. Kind words and sweet messages can last a lifetime – in written form, in heart, and in memory.
So, as I wrap each gift I’m giving, prayers and thoughts of love are on my mind as I cut paper and tape, fold and crease giftwrap, tape down, and add embellishments. And, to make things easier (but not too easy) for my loved ones to open, I consider ways for them to avoid pulling out a boxcutter or pocketknife to open boxes or cut ribbon. It’s the little things that count, they say, and I’m always considering ways to be kind – even if those efforts are not ever acknowledged. As we all know, love means so many things to different people but, ultimately, it means more than deep affection. Love is unconditional – as in going the extra mile, randomly doing nice things just because, and not expecting anything in return.
One thing I have always searched for in my life and my relationships is meaning. So, as I sat on the floor among all the gifts, giftwrap, boxes, and supplies, I reminisced about my childhood. There were years when, before my siblings and I as kids started receiving an allowance, all we could give to each other were letters of love written on sheets of notebook paper. We used to want to stay up and wait for Santa to deliver our gifts. To keep us occupied, those of us olders who could manage to stay awake, daddy or momma would hand out paper and pencils. We would try our best to think of nice things to say about each other and our younger siblings. “I love you” was the most popular of phrases. Our notes of love then would be folded and placed on the tree, where we’d each reach up and get ours to read the next morning. For years, I kept many of those long ago notes of love from my siblings.
A few years ago, I started doing this with all those who gather together with hubs and I to celebrate Christmas together. Sometimes, I have time to write one to every individual and, at other times, I only do one for each family. I still need to do these for this year. There will be one for hubs, my son and his family, his in-laws, and their parents. So, easy-peasy, since I’m back to working full-time again outside the home. I keep each note simple but as meaningful as possible. To date, not one person has ever said a negative thing to me about these notes, so they must find something meaningful in them, as well.
As I stood at the Wreaths Across America service, I thought of all the service men who served our country and what a gift their sacrifices were. I have always been grateful for the freedoms they have preserved for us. Their sacrifices, and that of their spouses and children, are ones that I know I could never fulfill. I think of how many Christmases they must have missed with their loved ones, how many meals not eaten with their family, and how many days they counted until they could return home. And their sacrifices gave meaning to their life and ours in ways those of us who have never served in the military will ever understand.
As I continue to prepare for this Christmas with my family, shopping for groceries, wrapping that last gift, loading the truck with our many packages, and attending Christmas Mass, I look forward to the new memories I will experience. This Christmas will not have stringed popcorn on the tree, but it will have the laughter of my granddaughter. This Christmas won’t have my momma’s baked goods, but it will have my grandson’s sweet hugs. This Christmas won’t have my daddy, who passed away over forty-two years ago, but it will have my son and daughter-in-love. And this Christmas won’t have my siblings, but it will have new memories with my daughter-in-love’s family. All these moments bring connectivity, love, and meaning at a time when we all need it most.
Hubs and I will be traveling for these moments, stopping along the way for last minute things, and doing errands after before leaving the city on our way home. Like every holiday, I will be enjoying connectivity with my loved ones, soaking up all the love I can get, and finding meaning in every single moment. What will you be doing? I hope you take time to slow down, to enjoy the peace and quiet, to listen to carols and let the joy of the season touch your heart and soul. I hope you participate in the planned activities, thereby creating a whole new slew of heartfelt memories for when life is tough. And, I hope you can reach out to those who have less – whether it is simply giving a smile, sharing a meal, lending a hand, donating pocket change, or whatever your heart feels called to do. May you live with Christmas in your heart today and every single day – finding connectivity with those most important to you, love for your fellow man, and meaning in every thought-out and carried-through deed.
Merry Christmas & Feliz Navidad!
Love & hugs, Virg