Many people can say that their family began on their wedding day. Alicia and I cannot. I pinpoint the day to an idle Friday afternoon in December 1996.
I was preparing for fall semester finals in the middle of my junior year of college. Having accepted a promotion at work, the next day was going to be my first day as Assistant Manager at Blockbuster Video. I had worked at Blockbuster since the summer before my senior year of high school. Many managers had come and gone; now it was my turn. The position required me to wear a tie to set me apart from the others in blue oxford shirts and khakis. I was feeling so grown up.
Then on that December afternoon, I had to grow up.
Christmas is a season where much of the world comes together in preparation for a birth. When I entered the advent season that December, I did not think that I would be preparing for the birth of my own child. However, on that December afternoon, I learned that I was going to be a father. Suddenly, my part time managerial job in video rental and sales didn’t seem all that grown up.
When the calendar flips to December each year, a mix of emotions stings me like a gust of winter’s chill on a downhill slope. Excitement…insecurity…..the need to be comforted…… a longing to comfort someone. These and more are unwrapped from my soul like a gift from under the tree.
The Christmas season can be a time when many are hit hard by emotions. I am overly aware that many couples who start off the way Alicia and I did do not find themselves married and together several Christmases later. It is also a reality that, in many instances, the cries of a couple’s newborn baby in our situation would never be heard.
I don’t say this judgmentally. I say this because I was there. And I say this because there are others there today and others who will be there tomorrow. “It’s Complicated” is more than just a Facebook status.
That December was the first time I watched Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life . Up until that point, the black and white Christmas film was nothing more than background filler noise that mixed together with Christmas carols, the sound of a toy train circling endlessly under our Christmas tree, and fights between my parents over whose family we would spend Christmas dinner with. The film captured my attention in a way it never had before.
George Bailey taught me that our lives are intertwined. We are not single islands unto ourselves. In our daily existence, the mundane happenings have monumental consequences with alternative effects that change the course of our own paths and, not to sound too self-important, the outcome of the world. Our ripple effects, positive or negative, are felt by others.
During the Christmas season, humanity’s heart seems to be more willing to see the examples of how our own actions touch the lives of other people. This December, I petition you to step away from yourself and watch the world the way George Baily’s guardian angel gave him the opportunity to. How would the world be affected if you were not around?
Act purposefully to serve others in both the big and seemingly not-so-big ways. The ways are endless.
Instead of ignoring the man on the street asking for some spare change, ask him his name and buy him a cup of coffee. Give him a few moments of your time and the respect to hear his story. Offer the gently used winter coat that your child wore last year and outgrew to another family. When you make Christmas cookies, make an extra platter and offer it to the gentleman who lives down the street all alone. Make a choice to volunteer with a local nonprofit and commit a few hours of your time each month for the year to come.
Make good use of the grocery store receipt that you get when you purchase all the fixings for your Christmas meal. Your small choice to donate the free turkey that you’ve earned with grocery store rewards points might mean that a young couple can prepare a feast for their children. Someday, that family will be in the position to give back. They’ll remember a time when someone helped them and they’ll choose to give back. They might even write a blog and ask others to think of ways that they can give back.
And the world might be a better place.