I’ve spoken a lot about giving to others and the impact that it’s had on my life. Around this time last year, I encouraged people to join me in pushing back the darkness in the world by “turning on the light,” giving gifts to their neighbors, friends, and even strangers without expecting anything in return. When the world seems bent on evil and destruction, you have two choices: you can get angry and add to the noise or you can fight back with love. My family and I choose the latter, and I hope that you, gentle reader, will do so as well.
I try to do find ways to give and to help others all year long, but there’s something about the last six weeks of the year that calls to me to do more, give more, spread more light. This week, I thought about why that is and I came up with three reasons:
It’s the Holidays
Whether or not you want to attach special meaning to the December holidays, time of year is special in America. We’re bombarded with images of happy families getting together to eat, give presents, and enjoy each other’s company. We’re supposed to be happy and loving or we’ll end up on the Naughty List, so those who consider this “the most wonderful time of the year” are especially open to acts of kindness and more willing to pass them on. And those who don’t have family and friends around them feel that absence more keenly this time of year, leading to depression and the “holiday blues.” Families who can’t afford a big Christmas feel their poverty more keenly when their kids see all the toy commercials and hear their friends talking about what they want to get. In all these cases, a simple act of kindness has far greater impact during this season.
Days are getting shorter, nights are getting longer. As we head into the depths of winter, we’re surrounded by darkness. When you turn on the news or look at Twitter, it can feel like the darkness is entering your very soul, and you can’t even go for a walk to shake off the feeling because it’s cold, dark, and probably wet. We need an antidote to the darkness, which is why all of the holidays emphasize some sort of kindling of lights. The Christmas lights and Chanukah or Kwanzaa candles can light our homes, but we need something to light our souls as well. Doing a kindness for a stranger, grieving with someone who has lost loved ones, or buying food and gifts for a family in need lights up your soul like fireworks and drives the darkness back.
It’s a time of renewal
As we wrap up the old year and begin the new one, we look back at what we’ve done and look ahead to what we hope to do in the year to come. You might not bother with new year’s resolutions (really, how many times can you lose that same twenty pounds?) but you can’t help but stop and reflect during those long, dark winter nights. When we look back at what we’ve done, it’s nice to include those small gifts, those quiet kindnesses, those anonymous contributions that made someone else’s day a little brighter. And when someone does us a kindness it gives us a spark of hope that next year can be better than this one has been.
Go spread some light
As we close out another hard year, my family and I will be turning on the light wherever we can. We’ll be giving gifts to families in need, buying coffee for strangers, and reminding our loved ones how much they mean to us. I hope that you’ll join us and shine a light that drives back the darkness.