More to give this holiday season than just gifts

This year, try to focus less on material gifts and focus more on the gift of connecting

Moving into the holiday season creates numerous pressures, from financial to emotional to physical challenges.

However, in the larger scheme of things it really should be like any other time of year.

That means not getting too wrapped up pun intended in gifts, giving or receiving. At the same time, it’s a season set aside for the spirit of giving as many cultures celebrate traditions of passing gifts to loved ones and friends, time spent together and appreciating what has been gifted to us.

The many wonders of the season include the crisp air, crunch of snow underfoot and cozy nights spent with ones we love. There are frosty mornings with an air of mystery and fog as well as bright, sunny days to get out and play in the snow. Yes, winter also means waking up early to scrape off your vehicle or to take a few extra minutes layering up before heading out, but it also brings feelings of awe as the stars appear brighter and the wind sings through the landscape.

As we spend time indoors with loved ones, huddling away from the chill, it’s a wonderful time to reflect about the gifts of life including kindness, forgiveness, companionship and having basic needs fulfilled. This train of thought can often lead into realizing how lucky we are in the majority of our society to have a warm bed, clothes on our backs and food in our tummies.

For those less fortunate the holiday season can mean stress, financial and physical. Everyone knows our economy has suffered over the last few years and Central Alberta has been hit hard in a number of ways. There have been families displaced around Alberta due to devastating fires and there are high numbers of those without a home to curl up and feel safe in.

Feeling pressure to give gifts can cause strain in relationships, friendships and workplaces, not to mention the seemingly increased pressure to donate or volunteer at this time of year.

Let us not forget that throughout the year, these are all factors in the daily lives of people around us.

Volunteers are needed all year round, not just in the weeks leading up to Christmas. There is definitely a boom in organizations at this time, but it’s always the right time to get involved in your community.

Homelessness is faced by hundreds of Albertans each day in various forms. Some people couch surf and some people reside on the streets, so let us not forget the power of a hot meal and kind gesture. After all, ‘tis the season, right?

The holiday spirit can be described as the feeling of love, warmth and kindness in the air, surrounding the holiday season and often uplifting spirits as we dive into the cold of winter. Let us not forget those who will struggle these upcoming months, but to also embrace and be thankful for the opportunities we have as a citizen, a community member or a friend to help someone in need.

It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Bring someone a hot cup of tea or hot chocolate. Help a neighbour shovel their walk. Visit an elderly care facility, or drop by an animal shelter and show some love to rescue animals. Volunteer to help a friend by babysitting while they run errands or join a committee, charity, organization or non-profit as they navigate the many activities, food donations and other events that occur over the holiday season.

It is a time to give, but do not spread yourself thin. There are 11 months aside from December where all of these qualities are needed. It’s an excellent time to try working with a volunteer project but it’s not the only time to do so.

This year, try to focus less on material gifts and focus more on the gift of connecting. Of course, a warm pair of socks goes a long way in the cold, but so does a warm hug and a genuine conversation.