photo courtesy: Alexandra Petruck
This time of year we are hard-pressed to go anywhere and not hear jolly carols, receive happy greetings, and watch movies about the joy of the season.
Whatever your religious leanings, the reason for the season could be the birth of Christ or just an opportunity to enjoy the gathering of loved ones and exchange gifts.
But for many it is also a time of sadness, loneliness and heartache.
I attended a church service this morning where the sermon was on joy. The minister asked the congregation to talk about what makes them joyful or jolly.
One woman took the microphone and said, "Our family is currently going through a difficult time settling my father's estate." She sat in the pew with her shoulders curled inward, speaking quietly.
"My brother and I haven't spoken for a long time, he was estranged for many years, and this has given us an opportunity to reconnect."
Another parishioner rose who teaches at the university. One of his preacher students discovered that she has cancer.
With no money and having to move to a rental unit that is closer to downtown, he knew that she was in a difficult spot. He put a request to other church ministers to donate to her plight and in one day he raised $8,000.
The final person to speak was very moving. She told us that this would be the first year that she would not be spending with her family. "It was a deliberate decision as it would be easier to spend the holidays apart than be together."
The most striking thing was that she ended by saying that she and her brother live next door to each other. When she finished speaking, she started to weep. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room.
I couldn't imagine not being around my family at Christmas and being estranged from my only brother. But a bitter divorce that happened years ago has caused us to not be together with my dad.
Some families cope well with divorce but ours is not one of them. Separating the celebrations doesn't make it any happier or joyful when you're always thinking what that other person is doing.
The pressure to be jolly is not at play for everyone, but I see it as an opportunity for others to be a little kinder, slower and more thoughtful this season.
You may meet someone who needs it and that may bring them a little more joy.
Merry Christmas everyone.