“The Holidays.” I hear people say those words in every manner and emotion possible. Sometimes it is in the context of counseling, other times in the context of loss, and other times in the absolute celebration of the season, family or spiritual connection. Whatever it is, very few people are un-emotional around the subject.
When you open yourself with the golden key of appreciation, God will fill your heart with treasures unlike any you have ever imagined. Alan Cohen, “The Healing of the Planet Earth”
As those of you who read my column regularly know, my partner and I have recently moved from our quiet beach home in a small community in the Tampa area to an apartment in Jacksonville. I am happy to report that we are in, settled, and exploring our surroundings in the Riverside area of this big city. We are about to celebrate the holidays with my three daughters and their partners and friends without leaving the area. What a time to be grateful and recognize the blessings of change. The packing and schlepping are behind us, and what greeted us here was a true miracle.
We arrived the day after the movers as we had a closing conflict. By the time we got here, my girls had set up our kitchen, bathrooms, living room and even made the beds and purchased soaps for the sinks and showers. I understood from the movers that they worked at warp speed to unload the boxes so that the movers would haul them away. Catherine and her husband Randy moved in a couch, chair, rug and dining room set. We stepped into a model home where the stagers seemed to know exactly how we would have done it ourselves. Even the refrigerator was stocked. We fell into bed that night in a state of total gratitude. Last week I started setting up my office in Mary’s building and created a new Power Point presentation. We spread my mother’s Christmas cloth on the table, lit the candles, put my Christmas CDs on and toasted our new life. Tomorrow, three weeks in, I teach my first HeartMath® workshop in Jacksonville to the staff of a veterinary hospital. We are home.
What I am grateful for this holiday is so big it’s hard to describe. The blessings I receive on a daily basis are made up of the kindness and love of individuals. In spite of the horror in the world and the disintegration of our ideas of community and loving kindness, my daily life shows me all is not lost. I watch as people here give of themselves to the homeless, military families, sick children and the elderly without a scintilla of hesitation. I have learned to look closer to home for hope.
In order to do this, I stop watching the news that shows a handful of greedy men in one city, Washington D.C., line their pockets and grin in glee at how much they have saved on the backs of the poor and sick—including children—in order to line their own pockets. And so what if they go down in the next election. They will retire wealthier than they ever thought possible. In reaction to this, individuals and organizations are gearing up to help their communities as much as humanly possible to make up for what they have been denied. The spirit of giving and connecting is not dead in the neighborhoods—only in the fetid air of Washington. This, in its own way, gives me cause for gratitude and makes me grateful for my many blessings.
Tomorrow I will teach those in my class that the way forward is to create emotional stability in their own energy in order to connect with others. The division in our country is wide and deep. It will take a lot of work, but my family and friends and the community I’ve moved into are teaching me the possibilities. Lance and I were lost in the twists and turns of this river city. We stopped and asked a man loading his car how to get to Beach Blvd. He began to explain but on the third “turn right,” he saw our faces. “Hold on,” he said, closing his trunk. He stuck out his hand. “My name is Larry. Follow me.” And he led us to our destination. It isn’t the big things that show us who we are. It’s the daily kindnesses and generosity of individuals that keeps us from staying in the “us versus them” stance. It’s what all the great spiritual teachers taught—and teach.
We can watch the privileged class on television making up the rules as they go along, extolling their religious virtues in big words and proclamations, or we can see one person at a time show love and charity in their actions. I am choosing the latter, and trusting they will prevail. In this time of division and fear I am filled with optimism, hope and gratitude and counting my blessings. As the poet William Stafford reminded me time and again through his work:
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world.
Thank you Larry and Merry Christmas wherever you are.