Not What I Intended

4 Dec

To listen along, click here: http://tobtr.com/s/8116615
Tis the season to feel overwhelm and as much as I love this season, I am not immune to the overwhelm myself. It used to be just the gift buying and keeping up with the activity that challenged me. Now that I have grown to a place of financial comfort, I have a new challenge. I find myself questioning what is appropriate to give to my family and what is my obligation to my community and the world at large? We live in an incredibly affluent area where the median income is over $100,000. Living in an area like that can tend to give you a skewed view of the world, especially when your children have friends who are making three and four times what you make. They can see themselves as deprived when you know differently. Life can become a constant reminder of what you lack instead of the amazing privileges you have. Adding to that is having many wealthy friends of color, so understanding the nature of the world can be a challenge. We do know others, however, that have much more challenging lives, which keeps things in perspective most of the time.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I got a huge wake-up call earlier this year when I read an article about a local school in which every child lived under the poverty line. Most shared a toothbrush and only owned one pair of underwear. Some had never had a bed and others lived without even a single pair of socks. This is only ten miles from my home and I was completely unaware. In that same article, I found out that my city has the second highest percentage of children living in poverty next to Detroit Michigan. That article changed me. That article made me understand for the first time in my life that poverty for children has nothing to do with choice. It made me understand that sometimes school is the safest place for a child and the only place they feel love. It made me also realize that I live in an unbelievably giving city that overwhelmed the school with its generosity. They had hoped that people would reach out to their school and help the families. They were unprepared for the 19 beds, the mountains of underwear and socks and the incredible amount of money that was donated. They were unprepared for the meal and treat donations and the pledges from civic groups to make sure that when school started this year that every child would have all the supplies they needed. The city responded and life is better for those children, but there is so much more to do. Other children live in poverty. People are homeless. As much as I want my children to have an amazing holiday season, this tugs at my soul, so I’ve decided to compromise.

I still want to provide my family with a Christmas to remember, and I will. We will have presents and meals and family time galore, but when I make a treat tray for the schools, like I do every year, I’ll make extras to share with the homeless I see on our travels through the city. I know it isn’t enough, but I also know it makes a difference to look them in the eye and see them and let them know someone is thinking about them. I’ll still make my Christmas Prep list, which I’ll share on the Better Living Daily Facebook page, but when you look at that file, you’ll see that every week includes the list item to make time for peace. Isn’t it interesting that the season of peace is sometimes the season we seem to lose our ability to find that peaceful place? Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years. Everything we do is a choice. We may not always like the choices, but in every situation, we choose to react or respond. Understanding that changed my life because I no longer feel obligated to do anything. I do it because I choose to. I send Christmas cards because I love getting them. I sometimes send them after Christmas because life gets too hectic, and I would rather take my time or add holiday pictures. I’ve been known to send a Happy New Year card instead just because it’s easier. I have figured out that the holidays are much happier when I pay for them in advance rather than after the fact. Learning to put aside a little money each month makes the holidays much less stressful. Here’s a hint. Start now for next year. If you get a year-end bonus, put at least part of it in a savings account that you don’t touch until November of next year. Adding even ten dollars a month will give you over $100 additional in the account. Do you get a tax refund? Put at least 10% of it into the holiday account. As the account grows, so will your excitement for the season. This is truly one of the greatest gifts we have given ourselves these past few years. Think carefully about what you want this season to be. Do you want it to be fun and social? Do you want it to be quiet and peaceful? Choose your actions accordingly. I happen to be someone who loves a fun and festive holiday season. My philosophy is the more the merrier and there’s always room for one more. I know others who are looking for a more quiet, peaceful season and are choosing differently. Each choice is valid and will be what brings each of us joy, and isn’t that the point?

You know, when I think about what to write and talk about each week, I rarely have a definitive subject in mind until I sit down at the keyboard. Most of the time, I don’t even feel like the author of what I write which may be why I have such an aversion to editing. The words come from getting out of my own way and letting the muse, the Divine or whatever you want to call it take over. Sometimes I get humor. Sometimes I get serious subjects, but I always end up getting some perspective I never really thought about before. Life can be that way when you are open to the Divine leading your life rather than trying to wrestle it to the ground yourself. I feel like I actually have a much better life because instead of wanting things to happen in a certain way, I focus more on how I want to feel and be in this world. I ask myself what I want, not in terms of how everything should play out, but in how I want to feel. At night, I always want to feel peaceful and loving as I drift off to sleep. I bless all those I love and all those who need and want love and ask for protection for all. When I wake, I am grateful for another day and ask to fulfill my Divine purpose in the best way possible. It doesn’t always mean a perfect day. In fact, it rarely means a perfect day, but it puts my mind and spirit on a path to make it an extraordinary day regardless of what happens because I am focused on doing my best and doing my best will be the focus for the next few weeks as we head into Christmas and the new year.

Speaking of Christmas, I want to let you in on a little secret. I live in a part of the world that is politically correct in their speech and diverse in their religion and ethnic background. Never once has anyone ever been offended by my wishing them a Merry Christmas or even by my giving them a Christmas present, and I have done both. I am not offended that all of my children learned to play the dreidel game and sing the dreidel song. I am not offended that my children have witnessed their Muslim friends sit through lunch or even play soccer during Ramadan and refuse even a sip of water or morsel of food. I am not offended that my children know what Diwali is and when it is celebrated. I’m not even offended that some of my children’s friends not only don’t believe in my God or my traditions, but are critical of them. From our Jewish friends, our children have learned about persecution, practical faith and giving. From our Muslim friends, our children have learned about commitment, perseverance and devotion. From our Hindu friends, our children have learned dedication, hard work and always doing your best. From out atheist friends, our children have learned critical thinking and to question why we believe as we do. Hopefully, the friends of my children have learned acceptance and love from my children. I have often said that the world could learn a few lessons from the children of our school district, and it is my hope and prayer that as my children go into this world as adults that they share their understanding and promote peace wherever they go.

So here we are again, somewhere I did not intend to go, but went anyway. I hope you got a nugget of perspective and perhaps a nugget of hope. I believe in perspective. I believe in love, and I believe when we stop being angry with each other and blaming each other, we will finally be able to walk in peace. I love you all more than you know, and I wish you the best holiday season you’ve ever had. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

Advertisements

One Response to “Not What I Intended”

  1. Chris December 4, 2015 at 11:57 pm #

    Karen, I enjoyed your article as usual.
    Merry Christmas!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: