When I think of Christmas, the smell of fresh pine needles, the taste of creamy eggnog, and the sight of beautifully colored lights immediately spring to mind. But even as I enjoy those delightful thoughts, I know they are not what really matter at Christmas, magical as they are. What matters most at Christmas is that I somehow become the best version of myself. I am a Christian and therefore celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and I do that by acting more like Him. The truly magical part about that is, I don’t even set out to do it, and yet it happens, year after year.
I don’t think I am alone in this holiday habit; people in general tend to be kinder, more generous, and thoughtful of others at this time of year.
Spreading Kindness– I tend to simply feel kinder at Christmas. Random acts of kindness seem to be generally more prevalent in the community, and their influence is contagious. There is great goodwill in the hearts of men and women, religious minded or not. As Charles Dickens’ literary character, Scrooge’s nephew explains, it is a time “when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people as…fellow passengers (in life) and not creatures bound on other journeys”. Neighbors deliver home-baked treats, grocery store shoppers drop canned goods in donation boxes, and people buy dinner for the strangers in the car behind them in the fast-food drive-through. Every time I witness or perform an act of kindness, my heart expands, and I feel like the Grinch with his heart that “grew three sizes that day.”
Service– The holidays are a natural time to give service to others, regardless of which holiday you celebrate. There are countless organized opportunities for giving to those who are less advantaged than we are, and they are easy to find. A fairly new one is called the Giving Machine; there are 10 of them this year, and are located in major cities across the U.S. The best part of this service is that 100 percent of all donations go directly to the recipients. Donations can be anywhere from a soccer ball, or polio vaccination, to a chicken or a goat for families in need across the world.
But service is best when it comes from the heart. Thinking of what you can do to help a neighbor, co-worker or friend helps you to connect to that person in an intrinsically bonding way that never fades. Through experience I have observed any service I can give, regardless of the cost of effort, time, or money, is well worth it. I have learned over the years to be far more generous, and it has done me good.
Expressing Love to Family and Friends-yes, Christmas is a time of gift-giving, and presents are a great way to show someone we care. And yet, the gifts that make me feel loved are the most enduring and my personal favorites. Often the message of love on a Christmas card, the effort in a handmade item I may or may not even use, the time spent laughing together with loved ones, are what I treasure the most. And, I truly believe, is what everyone really wants for Christmas: to be shown love and affection, to know that someone cares about them, to experience the inter-twining of hearts that somehow happens more easily and naturally through the magic of Christmas.
Oh, I still want to enjoy the pine needles, eggnog, and Christmas lights. But I also want to feel my heart enlarge as I deliver a tree to the neighbors who can’t afford one, drink eggnog with the homeless while I serve at a shelter and take in the lights with the friends, and family I may not have seen all year. The real magic of Christmas is when I give of myself.
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