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Seeking light on the darkest day of the year

darkest day.jpg

Each year, I look at December 21 with both dread and relief. In the northern hemisphere it is the longest night of the year, and winter darkness bothers me. Where I live in the Twin Cities, we will “enjoy” 9 hours and 12 minutes of daylight today. That’s nearly 6 hours less than June 21 that clocks in at 15 hours and 9 minutes.

So, if this day really bothers me, why am I relieved? Because the days get longer from here. And the holiday season affords us the opportunity make the world a bit brighter for one another. How?

Despite the days getting slightly longer at the close of the calendar year, there is still darkness that we need to overcome. The fact is, amongst twinkling lights, family gatherings, festive parties, and gift exchanges, many feel loneliness, depression, and despair at this time of year.

Psychology Today recommends some strategies for dealing with loneliness during the holidays and, from a purely mental health point of view, the article is rock solid. But I believe it is missing something simple we can all do – be a gift to one another. Simple, yes. Easy, not always so much.

George Bailey, the main character of the Christmastime movie It’s a Wonderful Life, shows us just how difficult it can be to serve others. For those of you who have never seen it, I recommend you do. If you want to catch up quickly, here is the synopsis.

George made a series of decisions that put others’ needs and desires before his own. His dedication to others cost him professional opportunities, wealth, and almost his life. Spoiler alert – all the people who he helped over the course of his lifetime return in his hour of need.

Now I’m not suggesting all of us have the heroic virtue necessary to give up our entire lives for others. I certainly don’t. But perhaps there could be a bit of George Bailey in all of us if we slow down and look around for someone who could use our time or talent.

Some examples are obvious, but others are less so. And, contrary to what many might think, actions don’t need to be grand or earth-shaking. I am a believer that small actions done with sincerity and kindness mean more than flashy displays of “generosity."

This year let’s make an effort to not give of what you have (read money) but make a withdrawal and gift of who we are to our friends, family, and co-workers. How so? I can’t believe I am saying this, but I have examples from current holiday television commercials.

In this commercial from Amazon, three elderly women are sitting on a bench looking longingly up a snow-covered hill as children sled down. One of the three friends decides they should sled as well and makes it happen with a gift. Even though her initial gift is a tangible thing, the greater gift is a joyful memory of their youth together.

If you haven’t gotten the tissues out yet, you will need them for this next one.

At a family gathering, a grandmother is staring out into space as her grandchildren gleefully bounce toward her and wish her a merry Christmas. In the kitchen nearby the woman’s daughter asks her father about her mother’s dementia and is told there are more bad days than good. The grandfather remarks that there are days she doesn’t even recognize him.

What happens next is truly magnificent and heartwarming. No spoiler on this one. Go and watch it for yourself. I’ll wait until you are done drying your eyes.

Some of you are thinking, I can do friends and family, but co-workers? That seems like a stretch for people I wish were working remotely. Here’s a tip. Sometimes you can be a gift to your colleagues by doing your job and doing it well.

Most of you don’t know there is an editor behind these blogs named Barry House. This year marks Barry’s 25-year anniversary with LRS, and he will retire at the end of this month. I would be remiss if I did not thank Barry for his gift of patience with me.

Regular readers of my blogs will know that I not only “push the envelope” on what a technology blog should be, but I also rip it up and set fire to it. Every time I submit something to Barry for editing, I can imagine him shaking his head from 500 miles away.

But Barry’s patience has paid off for me.

When I started writing blogs for LRS four years ago, there were enough edits to necessitate complete re-writes. Now, many fewer. Barry’s professional courtesy and guidance has made me a better, more thoughtful writer. Thank you, Barry, for the gift of yourself and enjoy the next stage of this adventure called life.

So, how do you end a blog about being a gift of yourself during the holidays? Well, with another television ad, of course. Stick with it to the end. It’s worth it. And you’ll need more tissues.

About the author

Patrick Schmidt is a Technology Lifecycle Management Specialist with LRS IT Solutions. For more than 26 years, he has been helping customers get a firm grasp on their asset and contract management with a combination of comprehensive service level analysis and lifecycle management best practices.