Between the ads pressuring us to shop, shop, shop and the Christmas carols demanding joy and yet more joy still, I sometimes want to . . . well, do something decidedly unjolly. Sure, I love the holidays, but I probably loved them more when they started later and weren't so aggressive. Let's face it; I also miss a lot of people who aren't around to celebrate with.
At first, missing friends was my fault because I'm the one who went on the road. Travels took me farther than expected and the distance grew between us. People settle down, have families and careers, and suddenly, a few decades have slipped by and getting back together would be awkward.
Beyond that are those who are simply gone. If a bulb on the tree burned out each time a friend or loved one passed, the tree would be dark indeed. What began as surprising has become a trend with gathering momentum.
In between these two are the kids and grandkids who have aged out of visiting or have themselves moved away to distant lives of their own. Holidays are for children and when you don't have children around it can make trimming the Christmas tree feel a little pointless.
What my lovely wife, Kelly, and I are discovering is that there are still children around, just not our own. Many have problems far greater than our memories of past abundance. They are near and they are in need.
So, we shop for the homeless and battered women's shelters and look for those community wish lists from kids who aren't really expecting very much for Christmas. For most of them, the greatest gift of all would be normalcy. Not just a tree with decorations, but a place to put the tree and a room to come down from on December 25th.
The first year Kelly suggested it, I felt kind of weird going out shopping for people I didn't know. Where was the fun in giving if I couldn't be there to witness the receiving? Well, it turns out that giving is a joy in itself! (Who was it that said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive", anyway?)
Not just kids, either. There are plenty of grown ups with lists. Most local senior centers are looking for things for their elder communities. That turns out to be fun shopping, too.
This new century is a new place for me. There is much where I don't seem to fit and what is dear to me is missing. But I'm discovering a great way to keep the joy in my holidays. Not surprisingly, it is what brought the joy to my holidays in the first place.
Aging in Place. It's no accident and its better shared.