How to keep Christmas?

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Love wins.

Isn’t that the bottom line of Christmas? Strip away all the decorations and gifts and songs and celebrations, and what remains is: love wins. It’s about love. God loves us, and we are to love each other. And even in a world divided by hate, blind to oneness, driven by greed, love will win. Because that’s the point of Christmas.

It’s about the love.

Move the chains.

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Any great achievement depends on small steps forward. Progress. Getting up again and again. Pushing through challenges. Ever forward.

If you are confronting a large, overwhelming project, break it up into small manageable pieces, and then tackle those. One at a time. You’ve got this.

Choose kindness.

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So much of our suffering is invisible. Loneliness, sorrow, depression, not fitting in. We can bind up our own cuts and scrapes, but how do we bind up those kind of wounds?

There is an old parable about heaven and hell. In both, people are forced to eat with spoons that are too long to feed themselves. In hell, they are starving. In heaven, they feed each other.

When it comes to these invisible hurts, we are healed by kindness, one to another. We don’t know when we are being kind that it may help someone, but it certainly can’t hurt. And it may be just the long-spooned nourishment that someone else needs.

To inspire acts of kindness today, watch this video of a poor baby elephant stuck in a muddy hole. The gratitude its mother shows its rescuers will melt your heart.

 

Rest and be thankful.

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Without the rests and pauses, music would just be noise. The pauses add shape and definition to any composition and allow the rise and fall of the melody to stand out. In order to hear the music that is our life, we need to pause. Between tasks, before we react, when others are speaking. We need to rest when we are weary, to conclude that not everything needs to be done today, now, or maybe even at all. Sometimes less is more.

And as we pause, let us give thanks. For this life, these opportunities, these people (including those who vex you), and the abundance of life all around us.

Thanks for it all.

Persist.

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Sometimes progress is subtle and slow, born of persistence and endurance. Not everything needs to be solved now, today. But we must persist. We must set our goals and work toward them, cognizant that we may stumble and backtrack along the way.

Yet we push on.

For a lovely example of persistence, consider the story of ┬áJadev Payeng, a simple man who set out to plant trees in a barren stretch of wasteland where no one believed anything would grow. That was in the 1970s. Now that barren wasteland is a forest home to rhinos, elephants, tigers and more. One man, one mission, plus persistence, and now there is a sanctuary for many wild animals bigger than New York’s Central Park.

For a short video of Payeng story, go here. For a deeper dive, watch National Geographic’s look at this remarkable story.

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Help others, help ourselves

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Sometimes we help; sometimes we need help. Sometimes we teach; sometimes we are the student.  Sometimes we follow; sometimes we lead. But the truly profound thing in each of these examples is that we are always on both sides of the continuum at the same time. The teacher learns as much from her students as she teaches. The leader who best leads remembers what it is like to be led. And when we help others, it makes us more empathic, more generous, more loving and expands our own humanity. We realize we are one. We are a community that best thrives when all work to help each other.