Many people are taking this holiday season as an opportunity to focus on giving things other than packaged gifts. Cash is tight for a lot of people and the financial crisis has awakened many of us to the real reason we celebrate at the holidays. This season might very well be characterized as the year that many of us shifted from quantity to quality. In my own quest to pare down, live simply and be awake in my life, I realize one of the ways I feel like my life is full is by giving generously:
Here are the ways I try to be generous with family and friends:
Smile: For a lot of people, seeing their families at the holidays can be stressful. Try something new and instead of showing up bracing yourself, show up with an easy smile.
Participate: Whether you're traveling home for the holidays or just visiting for an afternoon, be generous with the time you actually spend with family. This could mean really listening to a story your grandmother is telling and asking her questions along the way, or being willing to help out in the kitchen more than you normally would. It might mean not holing up with your email in the corner of the room but really participating in the conversation.
Ask Questions: Really engage with your family and find out what they're all about. Don't know your cousin that well? Ask some questions to find out more. Never really heard about your mom's childhood, let her know you're interested.
Really Listen: When you ask questions, don't space out, really listen to what your family is telling you. Lose yourself in the story, give them your full attention.
Share Yourself: Oftentimes this is one of the only time families get together, especially if everyone lives far apart. Remember to share what's going on with you to give them an opportunity to feel close to you. Of course, anyone that talks about themselves ad nauseum defeats the point of sharing, but find a good balance and see if you don't feel more connected with people.
Be Flexible: Be willing to compromise for the sake of all doing something together. Maybe you don't really want to see that sweet holiday film but everyone else does, be flexible and participate. Board games aren't your thing, but everyone else is into them, just get into how excited they are and participate. Be generous by doing things to help others create happiness, after all that's the best way to be happy yourself. (Also, make sure you're not the difficult relative).
Help Others Feel Happy: Because happiness is contagious.
Say Thank You
[Image from Chez Larsson, Thanks Benita!]