The Greatest Gift
The holiday season is just beginning, and for many people, this is their favorite time of the year. From having out-of-town relatives come to visit, to the hustle and bustle of finding gifts for one another, to picking out the perfect tree, or nestling down in fleecy blankets with the perfect cup of hot cocoa, there’s so much to look forward to. The smell of possibility floats on the nippy winter air and there’s an undeniable magic to this time of year that somehow makes us more hopeful, cheerful, and kind.
But it’s all too easy to get swept up in a giant to-do list. What should be the most wonderful time of the year very quickly becomes the most stressful time of the year. You realize that you completely forgot to pick up the ingredients at the store that you need to make your family’s favorite dishes. And you’ve been so busy planning for Thanksgiving that you realize that you haven’t done hardly any shopping for Christmas gifts or put up any decorations. You wrestle through a sea of people on Black Friday to get the best deals on gifts (and some of the people aren’t too nice). You haven’t even picked out a tree and you don’t know how many tubes of wrapping paper or gift bags to get. You get stressed realizing how much money you’re spending on everything. The list goes on and on. It’s easy to lose yourself and sadly, it’s even easier for beautiful moments to pass you by.
Around this time of year, my family and I have a tradition of watching It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). The protagonist George Bailey is under the impression that his average life is terrible. All he’s ever wanted to do is get out of his small town to travel the world, and instead, he works a deadbeat job day in and day out and comes home to a house that’s in need of repair. He can’t possibly compete with the materialistic and wealthy antagonist of the story, Mr. Potter, and at his wit’s end, George believes everyone would be better off without him.
Fortunately for him, he’s rescued by an angel named Clarence and in the style of A Christmas Carol, George Bailey is shown what life would look like without him and he realizes just what a wonderful life he really has. The thing is, nothing changes about George’s circumstances. He still has a deadbeat job and a house in need of repairs. He’s not the wealthiest man around in terms of money. But he is wealthy in a way that Mr. Potter will never understand because he has family and friends who deeply love him.
The thing is, this time of year isn’t about the gifts, the tree, the food, or the best deals. At the end of the day, none of that really matters. What makes this time of year so special is being surrounded by our loved ones. It’s reminiscing on old memories and creating new ones. It’s remembering those whom we’ve lost. It’s celebrating new additions to our friends and family. It’s showing kindness to those who need it most without expecting anything in return. It’s seeing the smiles on the faces of those we love. It’s the comforting smell of a fire in the hearth and the excitement of seeing the first snow flurry float through the air. It’s the deep and hopeful anticipation that we’ll continue to have many more times like this. It’s being so very grateful for the life that we have.
I hope this holiday season you hold your loved ones close. I hope you take the time to breathe and soak in the timeless and precious moments that you’re given. I hope you take the opportunity to touch the lives of others. I hope you remember, that even if you were to wake up to no gifts under the tree or no feast on the table, you’d still be the richest person around. I hope you remember that each new day is a new chance to love deeply and to hope without limitations. And most importantly, I truly hope that you remember that it really is a wonderful life.