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Give the Gift of Reaching Out to a Hurting Person

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“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

—Luke 2:11, King James Version (KJV)

Thanksgiving is over and the beautiful fall colors have been replaced with red and green and twinkling lights. We have entered the season of Christ’s birth. The namesake of this holiday is so often forgotten, pushed aside, or replaced by a jolly old man in a red suit, congested malls, and holiday specials you can’t afford to miss.

Christmas: a time of decorated trees and fireplace mantels. A time filled with commitments and hectic schedules as we make mad dashes to the store for last-minute presents. We are bombarded with ringing bells asking for donations, food bank requests, and impersonal checks made out to special organizations.

While I love my tree lights and all the ornaments and decorations, without the gift of love given to us by that tiny baby born so long ago, Christmas would be shallow and superficial.

Our “have to” lists are long and sometimes burdensome. But the love attached to each of the gifts we select for the people we care about fills us with joy and anticipation; we can’t wait to see the pleasure our gift will bring to that someone we love. While both lists are necessary, one list fulfills a sense of duty and propriety, while the other fills our hearts with joy.

The Gift of Love

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son . . .”

—John 3:16

We have made Christmas into a time for, “I want this or that.” But Christmas is more than shopping lists, mulled wine, or eggnog flavored with nutmeg and cinnamon. It is more than concerts and festivities and Christmas shopping. It is more than lights, candles, and presents under the tree.

Christmas is about love.

It’s about remembrance and celebration.

It’s about God and the gift of love He gave us when He sent His only son to be born in a barn. It’s about love freely given with the hope that as we accept, our lives will be changed and transformed.

And for a few moments, we grasp the meaning of love. It is in those rare moments when gifts are handed out and we see the anticipation or exclamation of surprise as loved ones open their presents that we begin to experience the gift of Christmas.

Reaching Out

Perhaps even more important, Christmas is a time when we can make a special effort to reach out to those who are hurting or are alone. A few minutes of our time, an empathetic listening ear, and understanding can be huge to those who are suffering from a loss or loneliness.

When I was closing my son’s affairs after his death, I had an unexpected conversation with a cashier at a small bank where my son had an account. After the shock of learning that my son had died, she shared with me a time when my son had reached out to her when she was going through a tough time.

Sensitive to the needs of others, he was aware of the sadness and unhappiness that couldn’t be hidden. A few moments of time, a caring and listening exchange of words that offered understanding, hope, and encouragement, had made a huge difference when she most needed it.

We never know the impact we have on the lives of others when we reach out with compassion, caring, and understanding.

Reaching out can be as simple as acknowledging how someone is doing. “You look like you are having a tough day.”

Sometimes, it is simply taking a few minutes to listen without judgment, preconceived assumptions, or emotional platitudes. A simple touch on the shoulder or arm or squeeze of the hand can be incredibly uplifting.

An invitation for coffee or to join others in group activities can make someone feel important, wanted, and needed.

Whether during the holidays or mid-year, reaching out can have both immediate and long-lasting benefits.

Be genuine and sincere when you reach out.

Honor and respect another’s privacy. People don’t always want to talk about their pain. Make it clear they do not need to respond – you are simply acknowledging an awareness of their situation.

Whether or not individuals return conversation what is important is that show you care. Your words and actions tell them they are not alone and open the door for sharing if they choose.

I believe when we are sensitive to others and reach out, even in tiny ways, we are blessed, as well. It takes little time and effort and yet can be so profound.

It can be the greatest of Christmas gifts.

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