Are We Allowed To Be Happy?

As the  homeless and disadvantaged struggle to make ends meet; some to literally survive the Christmas season, I imagine for many of us who work with these folks might feel a little more taxed than usual. It can be a real emotional rollercoaster for some mixing between celebrations of joy and interacting throughout our days with the unemployed and all the challenges they face.

We do get conflicted don’t we? I mean we’ve got our holiday and seasonal festivities with our friends and families; both our personal and work families by the way. We’ve got our Christmas shopping lists, baked goods to make, travel plans and trees and homes to decorate. There are office decorations too, Christmas cards pinned up in cubicles and offices, potluck meals, luncheons out, secret Santa gift exchanges. There are words of thanks and gratitude, hugs with co-workers and carols piping through the laptops and desktops while we await the big visit on our rooftops.

On the other hand we’ve got daily close-up interaction; first-hand interaction as it were with the most marginalized citizens in our communities. Society at large is counting on us to feed and clothe them, keep them warm and off the streets, distribute the charitable donations they drop in Salvation Army kettles and drop off at local food banks. We go from opening up a gift in our offices from a teammate to opening up our hearts and listening to real tales of heartache and sorrow, pain and anxiety all in a matter of minutes. Our faces go from broad smiles and a twinkle in our eyes to intense concentration and sincere concern.

And we also wonder don’t we, how much if any we should share our own holiday plans and family traditions. Do we or don’t we when asked talk about the family gathering of 14, the roast turkey with cranberries and stuffing, the Christmas crackers, the rich gravy and mashed potatoes? Should we conceal the wonderful gifts we received when Christmas day is past because there’s an extravagance to them it seems when you’re talking with someone who spent the day alone with a beer and Kraft Dinner? Or is it the victim of domestic violence that spent their first Christmas ever a shelter apart from their loved ones?

Balancing all of this takes some mental strength and wisdom. I mean we can all be great at whatever it is we do in our roles and still fully partake in all the Christmas gatherings and enjoy them guilt-free and worry-free because we know it’s healthy for us and it’s good for those we are closest to – our families – to see us happy and invested fully in the season. When we work, we give of ourselves to the extent we are able; some more than others for sure but all of us give of ourselves.

You might be the kind of worker who works tirelessly all day, goes home for a family dinner and then gets your whole family down to a non-profit organization to box non-perishables for those in low-income situations. Equally valid however, you might be one who gives it your all during the work day and then goes home to your family and invests your time with them, recouping all the energy and focus you’ll need for the day that follows. However you recharge, whatever it is you do, you do it because you are proud to make a difference.

You do know you make a difference right? Maybe you’re one of the modest ones; the one that always says there’s so much more you could be doing. You stay out of the limelight, don’t like having attention on your benevolent works. Or maybe you thrive on being in the very center of the spotlight; having it shine on your good deeds as a way of inspiring others to do good in their own ways. Yes you may indeed know you do good work and love it when you’re complimented on that good work – especially how it makes you feel good and you want to do more. It really doesn’t matter what your motivation is to someone who is on the receiving end as long as you’re there in some capacity to help them.

Look people; well done! It’s healthy and it’s good to both give what you can and then give yourself permission to enjoy fully the merriment and joy in your own way with your loved ones around you. Personally I share my Christmas plans with those who ask of me. It’s never seemed right to hide my personal life; as if I didn’t have one, but there’s also common sense involved in not going overboard and going on and on about how wonderful things are or were. Long ago, someone I was helping out said how much he liked hearing about my Christmas decorations and get togethers. He was happy for me to be surrounded by family and it reminded him of what it could be again for him; that he said, was important. I don’t know that I’ll every fully comprehend that in its entirety but it meant a lot to him.

Thank you whoever you are for doing what you do and for how you do it. Thank you if you are kind-hearted, compassionate, empathetic and patient. Thanks for listening, hearing and responding in kind to the extent that you are able and willing. Now have some merriment!

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