As a rationalist, I don't hold any religious or supernatural beliefs as justification for the holiday season. However, I do enjoy the secular benefits; time off work, being with family, and the change of the seasons. That said, I live by a credo that I have mentioned here before; the only sin is causing unnecessary harm or suffering to another. Its that simple. Still, I try to go beyond that in my daily life . . . actually doing my best to make the day a little better for those with whom I come in contact. Not only does this spread cheer and goodwill, you wouldn't believe how much stress goes away just by making a decision to not consider non-urgent things in life urgent, and by truly caring about the people around you. I do this every day, but during the rush of the Christmas shopping period, it could make for a more enjoyable December. Here are some of the things that I try to practice:
- Greet people with a smile and a warm "Hello" or "Good Morning!" It is amazing how this simple act brings smiles to others and lets you make a fleeting connection with someone. The funny thing is, this can start a chain reaction that you will never know about, touching many more people.
- Stop the rush. You will get there when you get there, so enjoy the time out. Whether its a line of traffic, or a line at the checkout stand, being upset won't help. In the car, put on some music you like, be it Christmas carols, classical symphonies, or rock and roll oldies. I find that classical music or some jazz is very de-stressing. You'll find you may be disappointed when you get through the wait, as you have enjoyed the time so much more.
- Let the other guy or gal go first. Now this is counter to our instincts, but it really doesn't hurt. Let that car into the queue. Offer someone with fewer items than you to check out first. It doesn't hurt. Really.
- Don't get upset with a greeting you disagree with, be it "Happy Holidays", "Merry Christmas", or "Happy Channukah". It's the thought behind it that counts. Such greetings are not typically attempts at proselytization. They are simply good wishes. I can use as many of those as I can get.
- If you are fortunate enough to have a job, share a little with those less fortunate. Donate to a food pantry. Give toys to charitable organizations. Coats are always welcome, and can be found inexpensively at clearance stores. If you have the time to do so, volunteer to deliver items, work at a food pantry, or to serve food to those in need.
- Teach children that it isn't all about me, me, me. Instill the joy of simple things, such as the twinkling holiday lights, hot cocoa by the fireplace, time with loved ones. Also, teach the joy of giving and serving others. Let them participate in finding charitable gifts to share.
- Practice those random acts of kindness. Pay the toll for the car behind you. Help someone with packages. Hold the door open for others. Be sure to tip those who serve you and who depend on those tips for their livelihood.
- Shovel the snow off your neighbor's sidewalk.
There are many others. Be creative. Come up with other ideas. Not only will these brighten the holiday season, but can be practiced year round. We're all in this life together. Let's make the journey better for everyone. Love your neighbor.
Happy Holidays to all!