will you be lonely at Christmas?

Christmas is fast approaching! The more organised have crossed off lists, the semi-organised have started writing lists and everyone else is definitely considering thinking about lists …soon …maybe. 

For many, Christmas plans are predictable. Traditions have been well established and you know where you’ll be for each part of the day (or 3 days), who will be part of each gathering and what the general format of each occasion will be. 

For others, Christmas represents looming fear. Plans are unconfirmed. Perhaps circumstances have changed since last year – a divorce, death, you (or others) have moved, work situations have changed, family life has shifted – and so you’re not really sure what it will look like. 

If you know someone who is alone NOW is the time to check they have a place to go and people to be with. Now is the time when the pending loneliness might be starting to niggle at their hearts and their peace. Now is the time they might be wondering if they ought to prepare for a quiet day alone. 

So NOW is the time to extend the invitation. A simple “what are your plans for Christmas Day?” will reveal those without any. And a follow up to be included in a specific aspect of your plans will, at the very least, have them know that if they spend the day alone it will be by choice and not by force. 

Celebration days can be difficult for Singles or those living far from or without extended family. “Everyone” talks of busy, tired, full and fun times that can contrast sharply with some people’s experience and that is part of the feeling of loneliness. 

My friend posted this on FaceBook today and I love it. 

Who are you spending Christmas with? Who could you check in with? To whom might you extend an invitation to ensure they’re not lonely this Christmas?

why you should smile at strangers

4 year old Norah Woods, with the help of her mother, was the key player in a feel-good story that circled the internet earlier this year. She was at a local supermarket in Augusta, Georgia, when she struck up a conversation with an elderly man shopping alone. 

Her cheerful greeting immediately brightened the man’s disposition and started a precious friendship that has become significant for them both. 

It turns out that Dan had lost his wife only months before and was struggling in his aloneness. He reported that after their brief exchange in the supermarket aisle he was able to sleep well for the first time in a long time. 

Every day we walk by people with stories unknown to us. We don’t know the impact a simple smile or a brief interchange about the weather might have on another’s day. How we might completely alter a person’s mood or break into a negative self-talk cycle and change the trajectory of their day. 

I recently helped a lady to reach a basket from a higher shelf and got the entire story of how the bathroom at her place needed more storage and she doesn’t get to the shops very often and she is hoping it won’t rain this afternoon …and a whole lot of other unrelated pieces of information that told me she probably hadn’t had anyone much to talk to. 

For people who live alone you (at the shops, church, work or even passing by on the street) may be the only person they interact with in a day. Their first chance to speak out loud. Their only smile or laugh. Their only sense of their place in the world or connectedness to others. 

Norah’s boldness to first speak to Dan and then her insistence to follow him up with visits that include colouring in together and taking Dan food have positively impacted both of their families. But even without an ongoing relationship, the smile a simple interaction brought to Dan and the joy it brought to his heart were profoundly impacting. 

What about you? Look out for a person you can smile at or extend yourself to today. An empathetic exchange with a parent juggling kids, pausing to hear someone’s seemingly inane prattle, breaking into another’s frustration with a joke or even allowing someone else to help YOU with a door or your bags …the cost is relatively small (it really is) but the payoff could be huge!

Read more about Norah’s story here