Tis the season for empathy & kindness

By Don Rush


Another holiday season is upon us. And, my first inclination is to gleefully rub my hands together and mutter to myself, “Hot damn! The holidays are here! BAM!”
Yup, I’m that annoyingly too happy holiday elf; a little too chipper, with a little too much bounce in my step, as I skip down the sidewalk, smiling and nodding to everyone I meet, whilst whistling a happy holiday tune.
To total strangers: “Happy Thanksgiving!”
To friends, “Merry Christmas!”
To family, “Happy Holidays!”

To Serve Man . . . have a love-filled Thanksgiving.

Like I said, it’s the first inclination; thankfully as maturity and gray hairs have come my way, I skip to the second inclination, that of being grateful, and being cognizant not everyone is like me. Many folks have not constructed a holiday narrative full of friends, family, lots of hugs, good eats, love and general merriment. Aside from the self-inflicted holiday stress of trying to please everyone, this time of year can really cause some people you know pain.
Just in the last year there has been loss of love; financial calamity; emotional pain; too much suffering. And, while this world is made of much wonderfulness, charity and love, there’s also a great sea of sadness surrounding us we all must navigate. I feel lucky my sails are still taut with wind provided by someone other than myself. I’m blessed my ship moves forward, still.
It has only been in the last couple of years, in an effort to be a more better human, I have looked outside myself and my holiday mania to the world and people around me. What can I do to help?
And, what I do best is ask questions. So, I reached out to a wonderful soul — one I know has struggled during the holidays having lost a child, and one who through the pain endeavors to make the world better.
Asked I: “Your advice, or suggestions for those people who, like me love this time of year and know folks who may not. Most people want to wish everybody happy tidings. What should we be aware of, and what can we do or say to those who feel pangs of pain during the holidays?”
The response: “That’s a tough one. I think it’s different for everyone honestly. The biggest thing is to just be kind to one another. And if your friends or family are acting Grinchy don’t assume they’re just being cranky. Most people want to enjoy the holidays, so if someone isn’t, it’s probably because they’re struggling. Unfortunately there’s no one answer that works for everyone though.
“Compassion is the simplest and most important gift anyone can give, or receive. Especially during the holidays.”
* * *
“Compassion is the simplest and most important gift anyone can give, or receive. Especially during the holidays.”
That’s a pretty powerful statement. Simple. Compassion. Try not to complicate it. Try not confusing compassion with passion. Passions have led many to uncompassionate acts. Take a breath and try to understand some of your friends may not be feeling very jolly and be empathetic to their grief. I know, I know, I know — not everyone is capable of empathy, so maybe if you’re not very empathetic, try putting some extra sympathy and compassion in your play book this year.
* * *
I was on the social media highway this weekend and saw a post I thought would be a perfect end for this week’s column. It’s a thought attributed to Irish actor Liam Neeson (I am not sure of the veracity of the attribution, but I think he wouldn’t mind these words being tagged to him.)
“Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true. Loneliness hurts. Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Envy hurts. Everyone gets these things confused with love, but in reality love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again. Love is the only thing in this world that does not hurt.”
For those who do not know, Neeson lost his wife due to a skiing accident in the early 2000s.

Comments for Don Rush can be e-mailed to: DontRushDon@gmail.com


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