The dichotomy that exists around the holidays is one that has baffled me for years. How can a season that is based around love, hope and joy be so stressful and anxiety-ridden? Why would families rush around to find the perfect outfits for family photos, yet celebrate later that evening with ugly sweaters? And in a world where bakeries and kitchens are filled with the sweet smells of cookies and treats would anyone ever subject themselves to fruit cake?
Yes, some of this I mean in jest – but there is another part of me that wonders, as I walked through my local home improvement store in October to rows upon rows of inflatable Christmas decorations if we haven’t turned the holidays into a competitive sport and lost sight on what truly matters. Who can spend the most money, be the first to have their lights up (and have the most), adorn their lawns with inflatables that have little to do with the holidays, and drive like maniacs in parking lots to get one space closer to the doors and then be grouchy with a cashier because the store is out of stock of something they “NEEDED” to have. Is that what the holidays are all about? I don’t think so.
This year when our team came up with our holiday campaign “Share the Holidays” it hit me so profoundly – not because it was fancy, but rather, because it was so simple, and so very real. “Share the Holidays” resonated in such a way that within seconds the most powerful holiday memories that came to mind. Memories that did not include gifts, but rather, when I was able to share the holidays with others, oftentimes, complete strangers.
I thought of volunteering at St. Patrick’s soup kitchen in Detroit as a child with my family, calling Bingo and serving meals to families that otherwise would have gone without. I thought of the many holidays I spent overseas when I was in the Army, in countries recovering from war or in far worse shape than ours.
I thought of holidays as a little girl, surrounded by family, food and a rob your neighbor gift exchange that always included a “gag gift” of cologne that the person who received the year before desperately tried to unload. And of course, I saw images of the past four holiday seasons here at the Foodbank, serving meals to families who were struggling, and how a simple smile, piece of candy given to a child while they waited in their parents’ car while in line waiting for food, or a simple hug, was the greatest gift to give, or receive.
This year, as you prepare for the holiday season, and whatever holiday you choose to celebrate, my hope is that you will take a few moments to slow down and reflect upon what truly matters to you – and let that be the light that guides you throughout the season. My hope is that regardless of what we have going on, or what we may be going through, we will never be too “busy” to pause and give thanks for the simple things we have – like a good friend, family, or food – and then take a moment to find some way for you and your loved ones to “Share the Holidays” with someone else this year. A neighbor, a long-lost friend or family member, or perhaps a complete stranger – and share the love and hope that the holidays should bring out in all of us.
For everyone that has volunteered, donated financially to the St. Louis Area Food Bank, or hosted a food drive for us this year – please know you have my unwavering gratitude. This year has been difficult, with skyrocketing prices at the grocery store, the gas stations and everywhere else, supply chain shortages, labor shortages and illnesses such as COVID and Influenza A – no one has been immune from the impact of the world around them.
Perhaps that is why this year, even more than the past two years, it is even more important that we think about sharing a little piece of ourselves, with someone that may need some help, many for the first time. Volunteering and giving back are great ways to show love to those who are struggling or could use some kindness or hope in our community. Making a dish of your favorite casserole or preparing a baked good and delivering it to a home-bound neighbor will bring a smile that will warm your heart on even the coldest of nights. Donating in a transformative way to an organization that is working hard to make a difference (personally I recommend https://stlfoodbank.org) can lift the spirits of those working so hard, putting the needs of others ahead of their own. Participating in a festival, driving through a light display, creating a new tradition, or simply reminiscing about holidays past and what made them special or dreaming of the holidays yet to come are great ways to ground yourself in making those all important “resolutions” come January.
No matter what and how you choose to “Share the Holidays” this season, my wish is that everyone would do something, to improve the lives of someone else. Imagine the light, the hope, and the love that would radiate from our region if this occurred. Here at the Foodbank we have a saying, that Hunger Can Affect Anyone – but Anyone Can Affect Hunger. There is no good deed that is too small to make a difference – so the bigger question is – what will YOUR actions be this season to “Share the Holidays” and spread hope, love and cheer to someone else?
Wishing you and your families all the very best this holiday season!
With love and gratitude,