On Christmas Eve my father and I are doing the Gold Coast Christmas lights bus tour. Every year hundreds of households and businesses compete for thousands of dollars worth of prize money for the most dazzling and delightful display of festive lights.
It stimulates all of Dad’s senses and he gets an excellent workout without realising it. We get on and off the bus dozens of times over a three hour period and each stop entails a walk of several hundred metres to and from the house to be viewed. That equates to a session at the gym!
But more importantly, it’s an experience of the moment – something we can share despite his declining memory. Whereas all of us on the bus make comparisons between the different houses and cheerfully discuss which one we think is the best, my father can’t remember the previous house by the time we reach the next house. He is only aware of what’s in front of him here and now. He doesn’t make comparisons and every house amazes him.
It made me think rather wistfully, if only we could view people in the same way: without making comparisons and open to being amazed. Zen Shin expresses this very beautifully: ‘A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.’ I believe that fear of not measuring up (whatever that means) stops many people from blooming.
We talk about Christmas as a time of joy with family and friends yet December is reported as the most stressful month of the year. Why? We forget that what matters most is not finding the perfect gift or cooking the perfect roast, but connecting with the people who give our lives meaning. And connection doesn’t require anything more than giving someone our time and attention. Yes, gifts can be a way of expressing appreciation to people, but gifts are not a substitute for quality time together. When children return to school in the new year, they talk about what they did and who they spent time with, far more than they talk about the presents they received.
The Christmas lights tour also made me reflect on the light that shines from within each human being. It isn’t a physical light but a light we perceive in someone’s eyes when we offer a helping hand, a kind word or a warm smile. Those are by far the brightest of Christmas lights – the one’s we turn on when we tell someone we care, we value them and they matter.
To everyone receiving this, I may not have met you all, but I greatly value that you’ve chosen to connect with me. Thank you for caring about what I do and what I write about. You matter to me and I care about you.
Wishing you the most wonderful festive season and an inspiring start to the new year.