‘Tis the Season

My mother, who passed away seven years ago, has been on my mind these past several days. She loved this time of year—the decorations, the music, the meals, the shopping, the gift making and giving, the surprises and, perhaps most importantly, being with family at a special, even sacred season.

Her excitement was palpable and has caused me to do an inventory of my feelings. Have I captured the excitement of the holidays and spirit of Christmas? I asked my wife, as we left to do a little Christmas shopping, last week, if she was excited. I should have known the answer. Of course she was excited. It’s the holidays.

I continued to reflect. My mind drifted back to my childhood. The holidays were always exciting back then. Of course, it had a lot to do with getting—out of school, a new bike one year, skis another, a hockey game with figures that moved up and down the ice, which my brother, Paul, and I played for hours.

Then I remembered a story my parents told about one of my first Christmas’s. I was four years old and wanted a rope. “A rope, is that all?” my parents would ask. “A rope,” was my reply. A few nights before Christmas I got brave enough to change my wish. “Could I get a pony on the end of that rope?” Needless to say, I didn’t get a real pony. But I got a stick pony (along with a cowboy hat and a rope) and rode that thing until I darn near killed it, over the next several months. Little compares to the unbridled anticipation and excitement of a child at Christmas.

As we grow older the meaning of the season changes. Most importantly, the spiritual meaning of the season becomes important. As a Christian, I love the story and symbols associated with the birth of Christ and enjoy the warm feelings and life-giving message of his ministry. He brought a message of peace and love towards our fellowman as radical and relevant today as it was 2000 years ago. And as I think about that message I know that the holidays are not about getting but rather about gathering and giving.

Of course, the important giving is not material. (Most people would agree that the holidays have become far too commercial.) The important giving has to do with our hearts–our human connections, time together, appreciation, love and support. Now I feel the stirrings of some feelings within. Excitement is not the word. Maybe gratitude, even compassion. Judy and I are going to visit two of our daughters and their families in Las Vegas and Chandler, AZ. (We also got to see our son and family over Thanksgiving and Judy recently spent time with another daughter in Seattle.)

I think about what it will be like to be with our daughters and their families. (I have to confess, I always have a hard time putting my work aside.) But I don’t want to take this time for granted. We don’t see them that often. And it’s too easy to hurry from one activity to another. I really want to be present with them. Give them a good, long hug. Listen as my daughters and sons-in-law talk about their lives, their joys and frustrations. Watch them. Really see them. Join them in their routines. Play with their children (that’s the easy part). Express the pride and love I feel for them.

Not that I expect everything to go smoothly. There will certainly be ups and downs. Moments when the kids are tired and fussy. Moments when I’m tired and fussy and longing for my own space, my own car, and bed.

But to be fully present, without an agenda. To find joy in the gathering and giving. That was my mother. And that is what I want this holiday season.


Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation, leadership, and teams. His tools and methods have helped hundreds of businesses and tens of thousands of people transform the ways they work and live. To learn more, visit www.theheroschoice.com.


About Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com>.

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