For some people, it signifies emptiness, loneliness, and hopelessness.
The world over, families will get together sometime over the long holiday weekend. For some, the days will be happy and full. For others, there will be tension and strife. For still others, there will be no one with whom to celebrate or share.
These folks won’t “be in the mood” to celebrate anything. To top it off, there’s another holiday coming up four weeks after Thanksgiving, and bah humbug is definitely on the calendar. It’s just another reminder of the emptiness and loneliness surrounding the long nights and days.
What to do when you don’t feel like Thanksgiving
So what’s a person to do? The way I see it (and without trying to be flippant), we have two choices. We can look out, or we can look in.
Looking in puts the focus on me, myself, and I. It helps me realize (as if I didn’t already know) what I don’t have, or what I’ve lost, or what I will never regain. I expect others to fill my needs and my dreams. When loneliness sets in, it’s not my fault, for the blame belongs on everybody else in the world.
What to do: Looking Out
Looking out, on the other hand, focuses on anybody else but me. It helps me realize that there are so many others out there who are lonely, bereft, and afraid. Instead of waiting for someone to bring the joy to me, I can choose to give joy to others.
It’s sounds so cliche, I know.
Yet – how about, instead of sitting home alone,
- finding someone who needs a friend, a meal, or other assistance?
- inviting others into your world?
- finding a place large enough, if yours isn’t, and invite a crowd?
- visiting someone else who can’t get out or who will be alone?
If your place isn’t big enough, then find a place that is. If you belong to a church, ask about using the fellowship hall to invite a passel of folks who need a place to go and a friend who cares.
If you’ve lived in your community longer than a few years, you’re bound to know someone in the hospital or the nursing home, or someone else who is grieving and afraid. You’ll know folks who are spending the holidays alone.
How we practiced Looking Out
One year after we’d moved to another community, we were not going to be with family for Christmas day. This was the first time in my life that I had not been with my family or with Dave’s to celebrate around the holiday. I could feel the depression clouding in, and I wanted to wallow in my ache. You know, the kind that says, “Woe is me; nobody has it as bad as me; nobody even cares.” When those thoughts starting filling my head, I knew I had to do something. Because we had small children, I knew they could bring joy to older folks. I volunteered our family to visit a retirement home. (We had never been to this place, but I found a number in the phone book and gave ’em a call.) We offered to sing and share stories with the folks who had no one to be with that day. Did the administrator say “Yes, come on”? You bet she did!
Sure, it took some effort on our part. We had to practice our songs and a skit. On Christmas day, we got four kids under the age of five dressed to go out in the winter weather.
In that retirement home, there were many guests who had no family with whom to spend the day. They were delighted with our kids and our program. We weren’t professional, and not everybody sang on key, but nobody cared. Our kids got hugged and loved on by the older folks, and they loved on them right back.
We could have stayed home that day and had a good time. I would have done my best to be cheerful with my kids when I knew that in another state, my family was together. Yet, because we chose to look outward instead of in, we brightened the day of others – and ours was brightened as well. (In addition, the practice of getting up in front of strangers at an early age was a benefit to our kids. These senior citizens had them believing they were the best musicians in the county!)
This Thanksgiving, look inward long enough to count the blessings that you truly have. Then look outward. Find somebody who needs a friend – and become that friend, even if it’s only for a moment.