Once you choose hope, anything’s possible. – Christopher Reeve
I love the Christmas season. The next several days will be filled with excitement as Mary Beth and I finish our Christmas shopping and make final preparations to extend the Christmas spirit into our home. Gifts need to be wrapped and shipped; several holiday parties are scheduled, and our favorite Christmas treats are waiting to be prepared, and eaten, with joyful gusto.
Through the busyness of our lives, though, it can be easy to forget why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. We buy the gifts, decorate our homes and reach out to family and friends not because there is an obligation to do so, but because by perpetuating the Christmas tradition, year-after-year, we are saying it matters to keep this time of year sacred.
Christmas provides us with the opportunity to see the gifts of hope that are still in style; are in the perfect color and just the right size to wear all year long.
However, it can be easy to be hopeless right now. The world is far from perfect. The instability of our economy and the recent events in Mumbai has some of us scratching our heads and wondering why we even bother to keep hope alive.
For me, the reason is clear – hope is a wonderful gift I have been given that helps me see the goodness that exists all around me and in me. Hope sustains my belief that no matter what happens, incredible value and grace can be found in the experience.
Over the course of my lifetime, I have received these wonderful gifts that give me hope. I share them from my heart to yours:
- When we understand our lives count for something. We have a purpose for being here. It may be to become a community or business leader, a scientist responsible for finding an important cure to a disease, or to be a loving spouse and parent. It really doesn’t matter what we do. What matters is how we take the gifts we have been given and use them to inspire and care for others. When we do this, it’s clear our lives do indeed count for something.
- Refusing temptation. The enemy will taunt us and lure us into believing what feels good is good. When we cover our eyes, shield our hearts and refrain from doing something that we wouldn’t want those closest to us to know about, we breathe new-found hope into our souls and remind ourselves of the dignity and self-respect that lives there.
- Finding the courage to start-over. Starting over again is not a sign of defeat; it’s a sign of hope. It signifies where we were heading was not the proper destination, but we still have the energy and passion to keep going – albeit in a different direction. Staring over recharges our spirit and keeps us moving forward in life.
- When personal satisfaction trumps instant gratification. I have been tempted by the over-use of alcohol for as long as I can remember. When I find myself alone, my desire to drink, and drink to excess, increases.
Recently my wife and daughter went out of town for a long weekend. The temptation was strong, but the need to stay sober was surprisingly stronger. There’s no question I would have enjoyed the temporary effects of the alcohol, but self-care intercepted the temptation and brought with it an even more stimulating feeling of personal satisfaction.
- When time does heal old wounds. Emotional pain will not last forever. While it’s true that deep scars can be left behind, the intense pain associated with the trauma does tend to wane and yield to time.
When the hole created by the pain begins to be filled-in with love and grace, hope begins to seep through until its healing presence can at least start working on the edges as it gradually moves more towards the core.
- Forgiveness. Forgiveness provides hope for a new start. To forgive is to let go of the anger, shame and resentment that is keeping you stuck in the pain and in the past. Providing forgiveness does not condone the circumstance – it just provides a way to move pass it.
To be clear, the act of forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. The root word give in the word forgiveness reminds us that when we forgive we give ourselves hope for a new beginning.
- Change. Change allows us to redefine and reinvent ourselves. When we are open to change, we are given the opportunity to see things differently and to do things differently.
We change in order to grow. Real growth, however, can occur incrementally. Meaning we don’t have to change everything about ourselves or our lives all at once, we just need to begin changing some things – a little at a time.
Decisions bring about change and change brings about growth and growth brings hope. So, begin by making a few new decisions, new choices, about how you want to live the rest of your life and feel the hope as it begins to swell inside of you.
- Do something good every day. Inspiration can be found in the oddest places. One morning last week I was in a Starbucks getting my morning charge when I noticed the statement, “Do something good every day,” hand printed on a chalkboard underneath the menu. Starbucks is running this campaign over the holiday season by donating 5 cents (on select products) to the Global Fund to help save lives in Africa.
Do something good every day doesn’t just have to be a temporary marketing campaign, it can also be a daily mantra if we choose to remember its challenge. By doing something good every day we can choose to bring hope to people we know and to people we don’t know. I think by doing so, we will bring hope to ourselves, too.
- Love will continue forever. In my article, How to Love Consciously, I write:
There will be a day when I no longer share this life with Mary Beth. When that day arrives, my hope is she will know my intent was to discover exactly what she wanted and my conscious choice was to give her more of that.
The article was written from the point-of-view of how to love someone with whom we are sharing a life right now. The next phase of love is the stage that will last forever. The choices we make today will impact and shape what that eternal love will be like.
When love is given without conditions, and it is returned authentically, we can have hope the love will continue forever.
- When we understand that we are enough I am enough. If I never make a gazillion dollars, I’m still enough. If I never write a best-selling book, I’m still enough. If I never achieve every dream and goal I have, I’m still enough.
I’m enough because each day I try to be the best parent, husband, friend, employee and world citizen I can be.
Please don’t get me wrong, I stumble through most days replete with mistakes. I miss opportunities to connect with my children, I irritate Mary Beth and I foul-up plenty of other things as well. But, at the end of the day, a gentle peacefulness layered with feelings of hope settles over me because I understand that I don’t have to be perfect, or try to be perfect any longer, I just have to be Alex and that’s more than enough.
The day after Christmas will be a busy one. It will be on a Friday and most folks will have the day off from work. The malls and shopping centers will be packed with shoppers eager to return or exchange gifts that didn’t seem to fit or just didn’t feel good enough to wear.
There’s a good chance my family will be in the crowd, too. The sweaters, boots and jeans we unwrapped the day before will be scrutinized to see if they are the right style; are in the perfect color and just the right size. If necessary, these gifts will be offered up for things we like better.
The gifts that give us hope, on the other hand, do not need a return policy. These gifts are crafted for each one of us and if we give ourselves permission to try them on, we will see how well they fit and how good they feel.