Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The true meaning of Christmas

Lots of families are at a crossroads today.

I just got an email from my niece. She’s a single mom with three young boys; she got laid off from her job last week. She’s struggling to figure out how to make Christmas simply happen for her family this year, let alone make it a merry one.

A colleague is taking a month off, starting next week, to care for a family member at home.

Many people, tired of pounding the pavement looking for elusive jobs, are turning to education to try to get trained in something that offers better job potential – or just helps them keep their dignity until the job market changes.

Whether the issue is work or care – or something else entirely, a juncture into the unknown is where many of us find ourselves.

What do we do now? How do we know the right path to take?

My niece says she’s not eating well and is barely sleeping. The experience of being at a life crossroads is causing her severe stress. She’s probably not alone. Here we are, headed into the merry holiday season, and many, many individuals are sharing my niece’s feelings.

Feelings that life’s sudden uncertainness may bring worse times ahead, not better.

Feelings that you won’t be able to play your role in life – as a mom, a breadwinner, or a caregiver.

Feelings that maybe this Christmas will be a bust rather than the family’s annual highlight.

I don’t have any magical fairy dust to change those feelings of despair to feelings of hope and joy. I wish I could find just the right words to say to my niece, my friends, my colleague.

Sometimes it helps to know that, even at the toughest of life’s crossroads, you are not traveling alone. You’ve got other people cheering you on, offering you love, support and encouragement.

Maybe that’s why so many people of my generation are joining social networking websites like Facebook, reconnecting with friends and family far-removed and nearly forgotten; people who will send you hundreds of birthday wishes or random messages of friendship and support.

Maybe that friendship and support is, after all, the true meaning of Christmas.

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