Tuesday, November 30, 2004

It's what I fondly refer to my personal "countdown of kindness." It was a number of years ago when I was looking for a way to slow down the holiday season. I searched the bookstore shelves for several ideas but came up with nothing. Until I was reminded by an old friend that "time is our most precious commodity..." It was then that I came up with this specific countdown of kindness and am now sharing it with you. Make a paper Christmas chain - one for each day below - and tear off one ring for each reflection/action you accomplish. Don't fret if you can't finish them all by Christmas - make it part of your New Year's resolution to complete them.

I hope you are able to find one thing on this list in which to participate or come up with original ideas of your own.

December 1
Take a moment to carve out at least one hour of this evening. Walk around your neighborhood in silence. Take note of all - the weather, the lights, the sounds, the smells. Forget your worries for just this one hour and live just this moment; hearing the deepest Christmas wish of your heart. What is that one wish? One of the greatest gifts of the Christmas birth is that of hope in this world and beyond. Hope beyond all hope for the personal wishes of your heart.
December 2
Make a list of all those that have been very influential and kind to and impactful on you this past year. Be sure - even if you don't send out Christmas cards - to find time to write or call them to tell them what they have meant to you. Love is wasted if it is not shared with one another in this life - is the central message of the Christmas birth.
December 3
Take inventory of your closets and identify those clothes that you have not worn in over a year. Part with them willingly and joyfully and give those items to a local clothing drive or shelter. Our greatest gifts of any season are not those that come from the pocket, but from the heart.
December 4
Calculate the total that you will be spending this season on Christmas gifts. Take at least 5-10% of that total and give it to a charity on behalf of a loved one or give it anonymously. When others ask you what you would like for Christmas, have them give a financial donation to a charity in your name - it is a gift that keeps giving.
December 5
Who is that one friend/acquaintance that you have been meaning to get in touch with? Now is the time, for life is too short. By phone, email, letter - get in touch and reacquaint yourself with each other's life.
December 6
Select a book - your favorite Christmas story or the biblical Christmas story. Read it again - slowly and intentionally. Take a few moments to reflect on the message of the story and what light it has to shed on your own life.
December 7
Identify that one person with whom you've had a falling out or major disagreement this year. Enter the season with a light heart by emptying it of all its debt - attempt to make amends with at least that one person.
December 8
Identify one blessing that has occurred to you this year. Once you've identified it, find a way to share the rewards of that blessing with one other person; someone in need of that same blessing.
December 9
Take the next seven days (or more) to offer a specific word of encouragement for someone who may desperately need it. There was a time when you were in need and someone encouraged you - return the favor to anyone and everyone.
December 10
Instead of having your weekly soda or cocktail, take that money and purchase canned goods. Donate those cans to the local food shelter; not for the "less fortunate," but simply for fellow humans. We each will need the assistance of our fellow humans during our life. Be generous.
December 11
During this holiday season, find one local charity that needs volunteers and offer a few hours of your time. The greatest gift you can give is that of yourself. And one of the best ways to relieve any personal depression is by helping others.
December 12
If you send out Christmas cards, do more than just sign your name this year. Take the time to write one personal message or thought in each of your cards - those receiving it will greatly appreciate it.
December 13
Locate your local food shelter. Go and visit it and see what they may need in terms of supplies. If you can't offer supplies, then volunteer your time. Again, the greatest gift you can give is that of yourself.
December 14
Find out from your local church/parish if there are any needy families that need a Christmas tree or holiday meal this year. If so, then take some of your Christmas shopping money (i.e. see Dec. 4) and purchase a small tree, lights and a few ornaments... and then deliver it anonymously. Also/Or deliver an anonymous Christmas dinner to a needy family as well. The irony of life is this: the greater we do for others, the richer we feel and are.
December 15
Find out if there is a caroling group in your neighborhood. If not, get two or three families or individuals in your neighborhood together to carol up and down the street one night during this season. Whether you think you sing well or not, nothing lifts the spirit like the sounds of Christmas coming from your own voice.
December 16
Identify one regret in your life right now - it may be in the present or from the past. Is there any way that can reconcile with that regret by performing a present act or good deed? Then do it - don't delay! Regret is one of the deadly anchors of the human heart - free yourself from its hold.
December 17
Do you have family members that live nearby? Don't wait until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to spend time with them. Make a pledge to yourself that you will get together and have a shared lunch or dinner before the holidays. Nothing makes the spirit lighter than being with those that know you best.
December 18
Identify any and all persons who you feel have wronged you this year... and forgive them. There is nothing worse to the human spirit than the weight of revenge and anger. Give a gift to yourself and let it go.
December 19
If you haven't done so - and even if you have - take time to read Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol in three parts. Right now concentrate on the portion of the story that deals with the images shown by the spirit of Christmas Past. What wonderful childhood memories can you think of that have helped shape you into the person you are today?
December 20
Part Two: Concentrate on the portion of the story that deals with the images shown by the spirit of Christmas Present. What good and difficult situations are occurring in your life right now that are setting the stage for the person you are becoming? What are three things you would like change about your life right now for the positive?
December 21
Part Three: Concentrate on the portion of the story that deals with the images shown by the spirit of Christmas Future. Take a look at your life right now - where do you see it heading? What are three things you would like to see come true in your life in the future? What are you doing to work toward those three things?
December 22
Take an hour - early in the morning or late in the evening - and re-read the biblical Christmas story in Luke 2: 1-38. Select a character (Joseph, Mary, Herod, Wise Men, shepherds). Meditate on their specific reaction to the birth of Jesus. How is this character similar to you and your relationship to this Jesus in your life.
December 23
Of all these reflections/actions, be sure to share your thoughts and example with your loved ones and children. - involve them as well in these reflections and actions. The most contagious element in the world is one's example.
December 24
Overcast or clear skies, the Star will shine bright. Where is the Star of Bethlehem leading you in your mission in life? What purpose is unfolding for your life. Write it down on a sheet of paper - simple or profound - and make it your first resolution for the new year.
December 25
When you gather with loved ones today, be sure to take a moment to toast those who are no longer with you - either a distance from you in this life or those that have gone on ahead from this life. Toast to the never-ending good they have been in your life.
hoedl's haven
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