At a time of year meant to be filled with joy, kindness and goodwill, I often encounter the opposite. Car-parks, time and nerves are all in short supply and the kids have only just started holidays. Why is it so hard to be kind at Christmas?
The other day I was in our local shopping centre and it should have come with M15+ strong language warning. Arguments over who saw a car-park first, people ignoring give-way signs and other people swearing at them for doing so, patience running thin at checkouts and people squeezing into too-full lifts. Apparently, no-one with kind word, only exasperation about being one of many who decided to shop that day.
Most of those people, whose nerves were frayed to breaking point, where Christmas shopping. Buying gifts for loved ones – I assume with the intention of kindness. With the intention of spreading joy. How ironic that the act of finding beautiful things for our loved ones has turned into a stressful and sometimes hateful thing.
I actually believe most people are kind. I try to live in kindness. Most people I know do.
But kindness needs space. When our minds are full of the things we need to do, busy with lists, stress and a feeling pressured, kindness is squeezed out. Our hearts become full of panicked self with no room for others. And when everyone else around us is in the same head-space, what can be expected other than ill-will towards men and the opposite of peace in the shopping centre?
I am no saint. I have been unkind. When I think about those times, I somehow justified them within that moment. Whatever grim pleasure I may have found in that second was over shadowed by a sick feeling in my gut. Being unkind sucks. When someone is unkind to you it feels all kinds of terrible and paves the way for feeling justified in being unkind to someone else. When you are unkind, it hardly fills you with the warm fuzzies.
But kindness feels awesome – whether as the giver or recipient. Kindness begets kindness and unkindness begets unkindness.
So with the argument for kindness pretty damn clear, how can we sprinkle it around liberally at Christmas time? How can we be kind at Christmas even in awfully busy car-parks?
Here’s how I am going to try to be kind at Christmas…
- Avoid putting myself in stressful situations. I’ll give myself plenty of time to shop, I’ll try not to over-commit (that’s big for me). I’ll buy presents locally and online. I’ll think about what’s likely to put me in an unkind frame of mind and how I might avoid it.
- Donate. A toy for a homeless child. Food for those that need it. Time to a charity.
- Offer to babysit for a friend so that they can get their Christmas errands done without the kids in tow.
- Go to a carols service. I am not a regular church goer, but I find when I do go to church it tends to put things in perspective and leaves my heart restful. You might find the same solace going for a run, meditating or being somewhere beautiful in nature. Give yourself the gift of peace.
- Do fun things at Christmas. See the lights with my family. Sing carols together. Make things. Decorate cookies. Find the joy.
- Just let things go. So someone steals my park? It won’t matter tomorrow. I’ll wish them well and send them some good vibes.