One holiday down, more to go.
Many people dread the holidays. The combination of holiday stressors – rushing around to buy gifts and worrying about money, seeing extended family, feeling lonely or depressed, and the temptation to overeat and over drink - can feel overwhelming to many people.
Yet inside each of us we yearn for more joy, more worthiness and more connection. In every culture and every century, we're hard-wired for celebrating, getting together and feasting. It seems like finding a reason to celebrate is truly part of our DNA.
At this time of year, I hear many concerns and questions about the holiday season. For every person who brings up worries, I bring this challenging question:
What will be a meaningful holiday for me?
Once you are able to answer that question -- not always easy -- you can begin to make plans to create such a holiday. Through the years, I have observed that people rarely answer, "More presents!" or "More expensive presents!" Usually the answer involves a desire to connect with other people in a positive way or create a day that is uplifting and good.
One of my personal meaningful holiday experiences for the past 10 years has been the "Blessings Of The Gifts," a simple little project that involves an ever-changing group of people that makes the holidays a little more fun. Like many other organizations in our community, this project focuses on collecting simple gifts for the forgotten, poor and needy in our community.
There’s more. After the donations are sorted and packaged, we pile them in the center of the room and give the packages our blessing – all the goodness and love and strength that we have to offer.
The gifts, after all, are only a token. It is the love that we send that’s important. At this time of year, we all want to feel as if we have something valuable to give and can make a difference in our world. When we are able to feel this way, it feels good.
This idea – that charity has wellness benefits – is beginning to be documented. A recent study found said spending as little as $5 on others helped change mood and feelings about the self. For instance, staff who got bonuses and spent some of the extra money on others were happier than those who spent their bonuses on themselves, the research found.
The gifts will be sorted, packaged and blessed at a special program from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at Lake House Health & Learning Center, 932 Lake Ave., Racine. All are welcome to participate; feel free bring a donation for the project or a donation of non-perishable food for the Racine Food Bank, if you are able. Gently used or new towels for HALO are also welcome. (The picture is a sample of just a few of the gifts that have been donated, with one bow-decorated "stocking.")
Co-creators of this project include members of the Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church, corporate people at CNH Campus Connection, visitors to Lake House Health & Learning Center and friends, family and neighbors. Several people have told me that this annual event has become a meaningful part of their holiday.
When each donation bag and box arrives, it feels like a mini-Christmas. I open the bags and find treasures. I am sure that I get as much excitement from opening the donations as the recipients do.
If you’d like to contribute, or start your own project, these are the kinds of gifts that are often needed: toiletries, cards and stationery, journals and calendars, bookmarks, socks, slippers and scarves, small gifts.
The gifts are packaged in recycled plastic net bags -- the kind that are used for citrus fruits and onions -- that are used as "stockings" and distributed to HALO, Women's Resource Center, Bethany Apartments, Focus On Community, SAFE Passage and SAFE Haven before Christmas.
Join us if you can -- or find another way to make your Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza or New Year joyful and meaningful for you.