Is it just me or are a lot of us feeling conflicted about the holidays? I'm referring to the age-old abundance versus non-abundance issue. The holidays have traditionally been a time when people become aware of those who are more or less fortunate than they are, but this year it feels more pronounced than usual.
I recently had the opportunity to visit to the Blackhawk Auto Museum, which is an exhibition of 90 gorgeous cars, many of which are antiques. I couldn't help but notice that the biggest, most luxurious and over-the-top models were from the 1930s, which was the decade of the great Depression. (I don't know if you've read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, but his devastating story of the extreme poverty experienced by so many Americans during the Depression left a lasting impression on me). Being around these cars, stirred up sad feelings about class issues, as did the bumper stickers I read on an SUV yesterday: "Fueled by Capitalism," and, "Spread my Work Ethic, not my Wealth."
At church last Sunday, our minister shared the story of a young immigrant woman working for a well-to-do family. As the holidays rolled around, she observed the bounty of beautiful gifts that flowed into and out of their home. As well as feeling homesick, she felt unhappy for those who were having a very different experience on the other side of town. Long story, short, the woman used her modest income to buy some beautiful baby clothes and blankets which she gave, anonymously, to a poor family who had just had a new baby. This made her feel much better, and when the young son (of the people she worked for) discovered what she had done, he was intensely moved. In fact, it changed his life forever.
Hearing this story reminded me of a few important points. First of all, it feels great to give, and it especially feels great to give to someone who has an actual need, knowing that you are making a difference in their life and in the world. Secondly, we can't alleviate all the suffering in the world, and that's not our job, but we can contribute in our own way. Every little bit of kindness counts. And finally, the intention behind the gift (the love, generosity of spirit, altruism) is as valuable as the gift itself, as is demonstrated in the story of the immigrant woman and the little boy.
You may be in a great place right now, or you may not be. You may have an abundance of health, wealth, and love in your life, or you may be struggling. No matter who you are or where you are in your life, please remember this: We're all in this together. Whatever you can contribute (a smile, a song, or an orphanage), please do it now. It will make you and the recipient feel great, and we all need to feel great in order to be who we came here to be. Give and you shall receive. Love and you will be loved. Honor your prosperity by sharing it with others. And avoid the guilt game. It serves no one.
In the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, everyone!"