Focus on Can and Serve

person holding a cup of coffee out for someone elseBy: Erica Venton, a personal reflection

Endings aren’t always happy. The close of the year brings joy and thanksgiving to many and to others the close of the year is a reflection of the past that often comes with sadness and a sense of missing out. 

It is easy to focus on what is lost — time, people, opportunity, warm weather. The close of the year brings twenty-something different holidays, depending on your religion, culture, and family birthday schedule. While these holidays are a reason to pause and celebrate, they can also be a reflection of happier moments. 

The clatter and chatter of those around you doesn’t mirror all the feelings. Social media scrolls family photos and posts of love, while the ads are regularly encouraging you to buy. It can be overwhelming and inundating, the perky positivity doing more damage than good. 

I’ve been there. Many of us have been there. Where silent halls echo the sadness and the sound of missing voices. That place where your heart aches for what was instead of what is ahead. Not every happy holiday happens during a happy season in our lives. So how do we carry on in a season of life that isn’t so jolly?

A wise woman once told me to focus on serving others. When our own woes and worries start to make you feel alone, especially when others seem so joyous, that is precisely the moment to do one small act of kindness for someone else. For me, that was coffee service - making coffee and cocoa for others reminded me that I was needed and helped me feel like I was doing something helpful for others. Simple acts of kindness mean you look beyond your own darkness to see the people around you. We could all use a little extra kindness.

  • Smile at other people - you can’t imagine how many people feel invisible this time of year, especially servers, cashiers, sales clerks, bus drivers, door greeters, old folks, young parents, and so many more. 
  • Hold the door for someone.
  • Leave $5 on the counter for the person behind you for no reason other than to make someone else’s day.
  • Wave or make funny faces at kids in stores and just keep walking. 
  • Build mini snowmen along your walking route. 
  • Take a basket full of dollar store craft supplies to a preschool or elderly home.
  • Sit with someone and let them do all the talking.
  • Bring your neighbor's trash can back up their driveway.
  • Leave snacks on your porch for delivery drivers. 
  • Write thank you notes and carry them with you to hand out at random. 

The gift of giving kindness doesn’t cost much at all (or anything, sometimes), but it brightens the day of others, while also helping you to get out of your own head for a while. 

The other thing that has been helpful to me when a season of life becomes overwhelming is to focus on what can be done. Often we focus on what is lost, what needs to be done, what we wish were so, and more. Instead, focus on what you can do. For example:

  • You can’t change the custody schedule so your kids are home for Christmas, but you
    • Can use the time to recharge yourself and plan surprises for when they are home again.
  • You can’t bring back a loved one, but you 
    • Can make their favorite dessert and then share it with others who may miss them too. 
  • You can’t make a feast when your family lives far away, but you
    • Can join others or invite friends to join you. Think of what you could learn from each other's family customs. 
  • You can’t spend what you don’t have, but you 
    • Can get creative and make something, or create new traditions that don’t cost money. 
  • You can’t bring back what was lost, but you 
    • Can honor what is gone in a way that is meaningful to you. 
  • You can’t fly to see your family out of the country, but you
    • Can use Zoom to make a family game night, or family dinner from across the world. 
  • You can't do a lot of things that you wish you could, but you 
    • Can always look for something good each day. 
    • Can give thanks to the people who have been a part of your life.
    • Can find people who are in the struggle with you and make your own memories, or help them overcome. 
    • Can delete the social media apps for a short time so you aren’t regularly reminded of the things your heart aches for. There were several times that this was critical for me.

What you focus on will grow. I’ve always believed this. So focus on what you can do, spread kindness where you are, and look for things to be grateful for each day. Write them down so you can reflect. What you focus on will grow — sadness will consume you, positivity can overwhelm you, but gratitude and giving honors what is lost, makes way for what is to come, and grows warmth in the dark days.