At this time of year, I'm hard-pressed to go anywhere and not hear jolly carols, give and receive holiday greetings, and watch movies about this "most wonderful time of the year".
But for many it is also a time of sadness, loneliness and heartache.
I was thinking about a church service I attended where the sermon was on joy. The minister asked the congregation to talk about what makes them joyful.
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, a university instructor, and shared a story about one of his students. 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 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. And then she started to sob. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room.
Not everyone is jolly this time of year.
So in the rush to get the shopping done and speed from one mall and store to the next, slow down to be a little kinder, measured and empathetic. You may meet someone who needs it.
Happy holidays and Merry Christmas, everyone.