That’s why every time Christmas approaches, I become more sentimental about the world and the people I am connected to in my community.
For the past 20 years, I’ve had the privilege of working for organizations that got out of their way to make Christmas special for people who often have sad memories around this time of the year.
Some of them are reminded of loved ones that died; others are haunted by family abuse, or worse, no one to call family at all.
Then there are those who volunteer during Christmas time to lend a helping hand.
Many of them often volunteer because they don’t want to be alone at Christmas or have experienced tragedies in their own family that make Christmas an incredibly sad time for them.
I have seen lives changed significantly during the Christmas time, mine included.
Some of those changes are for the better, some for the worse.
There’s the ugly: There are higher suicide and addiction relapse rates during Christmas. There’s no time like Christmas to remind you just how lonely you are.
But then there’s also the beautiful: There is often a breakthrough for people who choose to make significant life choices. This springs from the generosity we show each other during this time, and how we seem to live in a moment where everyone matters infinitely.
I wish we’d value people all year round just as much as we as we do at Christmas. Our efforts may mean the world to another person.
That’s what life is about.
A Scrooge turning a new leaf. A parent of 40 years telling his son how proud he is of him. A sister mending a strained relationship with her estranged brother. A long-lost friend extending a hand of forgiveness.
It’s those kind of moments and decisions that define and frame our lives. Too often we miss out on moments to make a difference in peoples’ lives. We wait for them to make the first effort, or gesture of goodwill.
Like I said, one of the best Christmas presents I ever received was my dad making an effort to be kind.
My father said few words of approval.
The one time he did was 30 years ago, and I remember that day like it was yesterday because it meant so much to me.
I went on a youth retreat organized by my church. The organizers had encouraged parents to write their children a letter of encouragement that the kids would read on the retreat.
I didn’t think my dad would write it. I simply didn’t think he was the kind of guy who thought such letter would be worth anything.
But he did write it.
When I opened up the letter and read it, I wept uncontrollably. That day changed my view of my dad and myself. It was, as they say, a bit of a Christmas miracle.
My wish for Christmas is somehow we let the people around us know how much they are worth to us.
— Floyd Perras is executive director of Siloam Mission.