By Dr. CHRISTOPHER J. MORGAN
Christmas can be a bittersweet time of year. On the one hand there is so much that is pleasant and wonderful about the season. The festive Christmas lights and decorations, the snow (or lack thereof), the Christmas carols, concerts, church services and events, the exchanging of gifts and, of course, the mouth-watering food and beverages (let’s remember to exercise some restraints around the dinner table).
There will be reunions of all sorts, with family and friends you haven’t seen in a year (or perhaps longer) where you can’t believe how big uncle Winston’s children have grown; the anticipation of the trip back home to spend Christmas with your sister Wilma in Trinidad or going to the airport to greet your children and three grandchildren from the U.S. And, of course, the hope of spending some quality time with that special someone. You can bet there will be many late nights full of stories, games and laughter. Wonderful memories will be created.
However, when you speak to those around you, you realize that Christmas will be very different for some. This Christmas will be very special for a few people who I know. There are two couples who recently had a baby who, of course, will certainly be the centre of attention at all family gatherings this Christmas. I know of one young couple who moved into their new home only a week ago and of another couple, recently married, who will be spending their first Christmas as husband and wife.
On the other hand, I spoke to someone who just attended the funeral of a close friend. He was a middle-age man, with a wife and two daughters, age 14 and 10. He was very well known and loved in his community, active in the local rotary club, a long-time member of the men’s book club, active in his daughter’s parent-teacher council, and he operated a community garden program for youth who have been incarcerated.
He owned a landscaping business for many years and then went into investing and was a successful investment advisor with the Bank of Montreal. In the words of the person telling me the story, “he was a great guy, the kind of guy you think is well grounded…he is the last person you would think would commit suicide”.
This Christmas, for this family (and many others) there will be an empty chair at the table, probably a few more tears and many unanswered questions. This time of year can be very painful for many people, dealing with the loss of loved ones, either recently, or years ago. Others will be lonely, not participating in any warm and friendly gatherings. And yet others, due to difficult circumstances, will feel the pressure of trying to meet expectations without having the means to do so.
Not to mention those spending Christmas in hospital, shelters, nursing homes or retirement centres. Let’s not to forget them.
Christmas is a time in which we are called to remember others. The many toy drives and food bank fundraisers, preparing barrels to send back home and so forth. I know of some who plan to volunteer and spend time preparing or serving food to the homeless or at a food bank.
It’s a time to be thankful for what we have, to remember those less fortunate, those who are feeling alone, depressed or scared of the future. It’s a time to keep them in our prayers and to believe we can make a difference, even in a small way. Make a phone call to someone you haven’t spoken with in a long time. Perhaps you can be bold and brave enough to try and reconcile a damaged relationship. Invite someone for a meal, or visit someone and bring them a meal. Donate your time, books, clothes or resources to a deserving group or program. Keep a smile on your face; greet everyone as warmly as you can. If you have ever been depressed, lonely, stressed or scared, you will know the significance and impact of any of these simple acts.
Together, let’s make this a truly Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Dr. Christopher J. Morgan is the director of Morgan Chiropractic & Wellness, an interdisciplinary health centre in Toronto, and the President of the Black Health Alliance, a network of community organizations, health professionals and community members working in partnership to advance the health and well-being of the Black community. He can be reached at 416-447-7600 or email@example.com