How to Help Your Neighbors During the Holidays

December 1st, 2021 by Barb Buffington

The lights are up, the sparkly ads are on TV, the Christmas carols are playing. YES! The holiday season is here!  The Most Wonderful Time of Year, Jingle Bells and Oh What Fun, Holly Jolly Christmas, and you know so many songs that tout the happiness of the season and the lightness and brightness of it all… 

Christmas joy

When I was about 10 years old, my mom took me to the eye doctor. I thought it was a waste of her time, energy, and money, all of which were hard to come by with a husband, 7 children and a full-time job. My sight was fine, or so I thought!  Well, if you have known me for any time at all, you know I wear glasses, and have since

that day!

glasses

And, to my surprise, with glasses and the prescription lenses, everything was sharper, crisper, clearer and I could see so much further!  My world expanded into one I had not ever known!

How to help your neighbors during the holidays

Seeing the Holidays Through Different Lenses

As with my eyesight, and as I have grown older I have seen the holidays through different lenses, and they aren’t always so Holly Jolly or HO HO HO but I think I have become a bit more farsighted over the years, and my peripheral vision has gotten a bit better. The lenses through which we see our neighbors during the holidays can bring greater compassion, understanding, and a richness that we might otherwise miss.

I remember and still experience years of great joy – and it is always wonderful to see others in sweet times, whether it’s having a new baby for the Christmas holidays, or being newly married, or being with family or good friends, experiencing good health and healing, or being a child and getting the perfect gift! What joy to be a part of or witness!

newborn baby

As well, the holidays can bring sadness, and going through a rough time the difficulties seem amplified a hundredfold.  The summer of 1994 I was shopping at a Christmas Boutique while on vacation, and when I saw the collection of Byers Carolers, I burst into tears and ran out of the store.  I surprised myself, and everyone around me. 

You see, my mother-in-law had died a couple of months earlier and she had given me a special new Byer’s Caroler every Christmas since Carl and I had married (21 years before) which had turned into a beautiful collection to display each year.  

I was looking at the coming Christmas through a new lens, one I knew would include the sadness of missing Patsy, and this moment that had caught me so off guard gave me a warning.  

Ten years later in 2004 after our son AJ was killed at the end of October, the holidays were so incredibly dark, and that holiday season I wondered if joy could or would ever return.  A lens of looking at Christmas in the hardest of times.

I was looking at the coming Christmas through a new lens, a lens of seeing Christmas as the hardest of times.

Look at Your Neighbors

When you look at your neighbors this year, you may see some of them struggling if you look at Christmas through their lenses –

  • Perhaps dealing with a job loss and trying hard to make ends meet.
  • People with physical illness themselves or of a loved one.
  • Someone going through a divorce, not knowing what the new normal is for them or their children.
  • Being alone, whatever the reason.
  • Loss of a loved one – a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend.
  • Those fighting a mental illness.
  • Caregivers, who find themselves in uncharted territory.

The list goes on.

It doesn’t mean you must hide your joy if that is where you find yourself, but are there practical ways to live and love through the light of the lenses of others?  I think so – Please don’t be blind or stay away from those going through hard times, even if it makes you uncomfortable, and don’t expect everyone to be jolly or put on a good face and pretend all is well, either.

It doesn’t mean you must hide your joy if that is where you find yourself, but are there practical ways to live and love through the light of the lens

Practical Ways to Live and Love

Here are some practical ideas:

Be Sensitive

Most important, be sensitive – everyone handles things differently. Don’t assume that you know what people might need.  And don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t avoid the hard stuff, but be kind, loving, and compassionate.  Another suggestion – don’t say, “Call if you need me.” Ask specifically how/when you can do something that will help. 

Reach Out

If you know someone who is alone, who doesn’t want to be alone, give a call, perhaps include them in a gathering, or invite them for a meal. They may say no, or they may be delighted to take part, but no matter, the invitation will be welcomed.

meal

Think Practically 

If you know someone who is sick or can’t get out to shop, offer to go for them, run some errands, wrap some gifts, put up some decorations, ask them what they need. Even sending a card means more than you might think.

Be Generous

If you know someone who is financially struggling, be generous – no matter how much or little you can share.  It will be appreciated. Here is the thing though. If it might be embarrassing, be anonymous – with a gift card, food, or whatever. There are many ways to assist – Christmas can be very difficult if money is tight.

Let Them Know You See Them

If you know a caregiver whose spouse won’t really know it’s Christmas or one who is battling a disease, let them know you “see them!” A call, a note, a gift, something to acknowledge them in a difficult season.  Recently I spent a few days with some of my own family who I love dearly, who are caregivers – two very different situations, but got just a tiny glimpse of how challenging, exhausting (mentally and physically), and just plain hard this is for my sister and brother, as they care for the loves of their lives 24/7. They are so strong, and two of my heroes. This holiday season will not be easy for them.

send a card

Listen

Listen and listen again – make space for sharing;  just be with someone and be present.

Pray 

Pray for those you connect with this season and pray for eyes to see through the lens of Christ, no matter whether you find friends and loved ones on the mountaintop, in the valley, or somewhere in between.  Ask Him to show you how to see more clearly and how you can be a vessel of His love this Christmas.

See Through the Lens of Christ

No matter what, Christmas still brings the Good News of Jesus, and Hope Eternal, which is the true message for all of us, no matter what lens we are seeing the holidays through this year. See through the lens of Christ this Christmas!

I read this a few days ago (from author Melanie, www.thelifeididntchoose.com)

“If God is calling you to lend a hand, lend an ear or lend your time, do it.”

If God is calling you to lend a hand, lend an ear or lend your time, do it.

Blessings this Christmas season!

Barb

Through what lens are you seeing the holidays this year? Let me know in the comments below.

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About this author:

Barb Buffington

Barb Buffington

Barb has spent her whole adult life in ministry--from her own family, to teaching kids with special needs, to working for a Christian conference center. She and her husband, Bishop Carl Buffington, live in Winter Springs with Sammy, their exuberant and adorable golden retriever.

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