Family is paramount in my life. It is the lifeline, the support system and is the source of our prime educational pattern. Family gives us our frame of reference. And yet so many people say they dread the holidays because of family strife.
If you haven’t seen it in your life, you’ve seen it in the movies. Animosity at the dinner table, critical sniping by the Christmas tree, even physical battles among family members. And yet there are others, of which I am one, who look forward to each & every holiday as a reason to see relatives not a part of daily life.
Am I the weird one? Perhaps, but I see myself as a man of logic. So allow me a story of my youth.
My mom has been close to the medical field as long as I can remember. I recall many days after grade school going to a doctor’s office to do my homework till she finished her work day. One event is indelibly etched in my mind.
A woman, approximately 50 years old, exited the exam room then collapsed into a corner chair, sobbing. It was the end of the day and there were no additional patients. She sat there sobbing, at first quietly, but growing more and more distraught as time passed. At about 8-10 years old, I had no idea why this might be or how to help. So I got my mom and she consoled the woman briefly without effect, returning to the office to finish the day’s paperwork. Later the doctor came out and spoke with the patient and escorted her to her car while they locked up for the day.
I asked my mother on the drive home what had happened and she explained, the lady had just learned she had terminal inoperable cancer and had 6 months to live. “Is that why she was crying?” I asked, “because she is going to die?” Mom told me no. Apparently the lady was a bitter person who had driven her family away over the years. She was emotionally destroyed, not over death, but at the prospect of dying alone.
None of us really wants to be alone, particularly in times of trouble. And yet we are so callous as to hurt those closest to us and expect no one to mind. Then we wait for them to appease us. So who ends up suffering? Everyone. Colossal stupidity.
Now don’t get me wrong here – I am no innocent. I have hurt others’ feelings and had mine hurt too. This is what happens when you have close relationships with other human beings spread over time. Whether real or imagined we all suffer and create slights.
The answer is not in avoiding the affronts but rather in resolving or at least overcoming them. Or perhaps sometimes it requires just overlooking them. It is not easy. Trust me. I know. But it is clearly worth it. Allow yourself to Give Thanks for family and friends. We should be celebrating Thanksgiving many days every year, not just once. It is up to each of us to let it happen.
And if you have taken the first step toward reconciliation and not received a positive response – do it again, and again. You may never get the hoped for reaction, but that is not the point. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Give Thanks that you have family to be upset with you. That is preferable to having none still living.
A final comment to those out there who refuse to forgive. Your loss is greater than that of those you snub in your ‘self righteousness.’ We need to remember Mark 11:26, “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
Imagine a world in which we are all a part of the solution, even when we are a part of the problem. Not perfect – simply better.