A Christmas Wish: To Love Our Differences

I promised myself that I would not spend my holiday on my phone. But, I allowed myself one round of Facebook on Christmas Eve morning. I scrolled through the standard holiday wishes, complaints and celebrations about the unseasonably warm weather, political rhetoric of all sorts, and pictures of parties and food. But there was one post that caught my attention. I stopped and thought about the post. It made me feel both happy and sad.

A friend and colleague of mine posted a holiday wish that was different than the others. It was a sincere Christmas wish and blessing, for sure, but there was no decorated tree, nativity scene, Biblical quote about the birth of Jesus, or reminder about the “reason for the season.” All that was missing because my friend is a devout Muslim.

JPEG image-26EF3D0205E8-1

This message is something very different from what I see in my social media feed, on the news, and in the world. It was lovely to see my friend support and respect his many Christian friends who don’t share his beliefs. He didn’t have to; he could have ignored Christmas like many Christians ignore or are unaware of the holidays he celebrates with his family. He clearly values his community and his friends, but even more I believe that he honors his own beliefs by honoring others. Even those who are not like him.

Ahmed’s thoughtful and loving message is a reminder that we don’t have to hate people who are different. Someone else’s beliefs are not by their mere existence an attack on my beliefs because they are different. We can love, serve, befriend, and care about those who are different from us without compromising our own values and beliefs.

My Christmas and New Year’s wish is that I and many others will make the choice to learn about and from our differences. Or at the very minimum learn to respect the different lives and beliefs of others – whether that difference is religious, political, socio-economic, a preference for Star Wars over Star Trek, or just a different accent.

That is love. And isn’t Christmas all about love? I believe it is.

 

Advertisements

Why Being Single During the Holidays is a Good Thing

Holiday parties, church services, gift exchanges, mistletoe, endless romantic comedies set during Christmas and New Year’s Eve and family events are all things that can make the holidays painful for single people.

It is a time when the volume of coupled people seems exaggerated due to all the festivities. Family events will inevitably present the well-meaning cousin who goes on and on about why you aren’t married. Of course, this happens just before the single family member is placed at the kid’s table for dinner or asked to run errands. Then there are the work parties where you are the only one at the table without a plus one. And it all winds up with the New Year’s Eve party where the single finds his or herself standing alone or keeping the wait staff company when everyone else is kissing in the new year.

All this can make single folks feel even more single and alone.

Needless to say, it is easy to focus on the negatives of being single at the holidays. But the truth is that it isn’t all bad. In fact, I believe there is a strong argument that it is better, or at least more fun, to be single during the holidays. I have talked to a number of married and single friends and from those discussions have compiled the following list of common responses to the question: What is the best thing about being single at the holidays?

It is all your own family or nothing: No in-laws.

Every major holiday, every year, I hear friends, colleagues and others complain about eating multiple Thanksgiving dinners and visiting several houses for Christmas celebrations. The thought of spending Thanksgiving or Christmas Day on a progressive celebration from house to house and town to town sounds exhausting and not very merry to me. As a single person I only have to participate in my family’s holiday festivities. I don’t have to see anyone but my family. Thanksgiving this year I arrived home on Wednesday afternoon and did not go outside the house again until I left Sunday morning to return to Indiana. I know my family, I like all of them and as a single going home for celebrations is one stop. This makes me happy.

I understand some people do not like their own family and for those people, being single is best because…

You can make all your own plans — no compromising.

When you are single it is much easier to skip or opt out of the holidays if you wish. Doing this will only make one family angry, your own. A friend recently reported that his colleague was trying to decide whether to go to Bali or Taiwan during Christmas. She is single.

You only buy half the gifts (or even less) than you would if you were coupled.

You only have to buy for, again, your own family and friends. No worrying about what to get your spouse’s step-mother that you see twice a year, eclectic sister or golf buddy.

No relationship gift drama.

A good friend recently starting dating someone. They like each other and are a good match, but a new relationship around the holidays can be tricky. What do you get someone for Christmas when you’ve only been dating a couple months? You don’t want to send the wrong message. If you spend too much then are you setting a precedent? If you buy something personal it might mean you are more serious than you are at this point? But, if you buy an impersonal gift, like a gift card, does that say the relationship isn’t important and that you might be just friends? Will your gifts be equal in meaning, cost and relationship implications? It is complicated stuff. Complicated stuff that singles can skip.

People expect less of you.

This is one of the societal expectations about marriage that works in favor of the singles. A single person might get parked at the kids’ table for Christmas dinner or asked to sleep on the floor, but they won’t be expected to do all the decorating, party hosting and card sending. Also, if you are living on one income people often expect less expensive gifts from you. All good things.

You still have the option to meet people at all those holiday parties.

Or as my friend Matty put it, you still have the chance to meet that “one person” while doing your last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve. Either way, whether you are shopping or working the room at a holiday party, it is a hopeful time. It is a time when there are many people out and about who are usually happy and having fun. What better environment to make new friends?

If you are single this Christmas and New Year’s then I challenge you to embrace it. Enjoy the freedom to make your own plans, be with only the people who you love, avoid all the drama and be open to whatever or whoever might cross your path.

Cheers!