During this holiday season, I hope your family is singing festive carols warm by a fire, and that these past months of preparation have been joyous. However, I am old enough and wise enough to know that this may not be the reality for many.
In these literally dark days leading up to the solstice, you may have been enshrouded in loneliness, feeling overwhelmed, and have legitimate questions about hope. We’ve been reminded of the tragedy of Sandy Hook, and then put on our gloves and gone to our corners over an impeachment. There is way too much ugly behavior in overcrowded parking lots and stores filled with chaos. It’s hard to see the magic of the season – one that should be filled with love and gratitude – instead wiped out by anxious and frustrated consumers.
I confess I haven’t been my most respectful self. I struggle with rude people. I’ve got a heart of gold, but that heart is tested when people are unkind. I’ve had to check my temper a time or two, and give myself a moment, instead of react. Lashing out with an unkind word only serves to make everyone miserable. And it’s not going to get you that parking spot you’ve been waiting on forever.
I myself have had to be more intentional than usual when it comes to self-care and centering my thoughts. It takes a lot of energy to make the holiday magic happen, and when there’s a lot going on and to do lists that encompass multiple pages, sometimes we reach a tipping point. We’ve got to forgive others when that happens, and forgive ourselves. Each moment, each breath, is an opportunity to choose better.
When we feel overwhelmed or out of control, we need to look inside, and create positive change in ourselves. That’s truly the only thing we have control over. Not the rude person behind us in the desperately long line at the grocery checkout. Not the person that just honked at us for what seems like no reason, out of their own frustrations. Not the politicians you don’t agree with. Not the immense injustice of 26 precious lives taken in a New England school on a cold December day seven years ago.
We only have control over ourselves. And you – your thoughts and actions – can help change the world.
It is up to each one of us to do our part to make our communities a better place. Peace starts within us. Change starts with courage to do the right thing, especially if that means changing how you see yourself and how you react to others.
Here’s a recipe for lasting holiday joy:
Be kind to yourself.
Be kind to others.
Leave bitterness behind.
If we can make these small miracles happen in our own hearts, it will radiate outward to our families, friends and communities. May peace settle into your heart, and may you give that to the world. That is the best gift of all.
My wishes for a happy, healthy holiday and 2020.
Darcy Castro is the 2019 Elite National American Woman of Service, representing a national pageant focused on community service and empowering women. Cultivating Respect with Darcy Castro is a year-long project to promote the program’s Crown CARES platform (Creating a Respectful Environment in Society). Follow the Cultivating Respectarticles and podcast at DarcyCastro.com, and learn more at AmericanWomenOfService.com.