Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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November 30, 2012

Simplify the season, celebrate the reason

When yet another “evite” showed up in my inbox, I groaned internally. What, another Bunko bash? Another jewelry party or trunk show? When this happened a few Christmases ago, I was new to town and didn’t know that many people yet. I knew I should’ve been grateful for the invitation. But it was the holiday season and life was especially busy, so I dreaded opening the e-invite.

I was pleasantly surprised when I did. It wasn’t another coffee-klatch-ornament exchange — it was a gathering designed to collect items for newborn babies who visit homeless shelters with their families. Bright Blessings, formerly known as Birthday Blessings, is a charitable nonprofit organization based in Charlotte, N.C., and spreading across the country, that provides birthday celebrations and gifts for homeless children living at emergency shelters or temporary housing facilities. It also provides baby care essentials to mothers bringing their newborns to these facilities, offering items such as clothing, diapers, blankets and bottles.

Unlike my usual slow response to e-invites, I RSVP-ed immediately, saying I’d be there and bring a warm zip up sleep suit.

Parties with purpose. That idea resonates with me and puts me in the holiday mood. There are many local charitable organizations in this area that can also put someone in a happy holiday mood.

Although that invitation revived my festive spirit, a friend of mine who received the same evite that year had the opposite response — she groaned at the interruption to her schedule because that was going to be THE day she got everything done. It was the only day she could carve out of her calendar. She loved the purpose of the party but felt the need to practice something we had just discussed in our small group Bible study: Learning to say “No.”

It’s funny how the exact same invitation can strike two people differently or an identical experience can result in opposite responses. This same woman discovered that her entire family (about five or six kids, depending on who is away at college) could find a few hours to decorate their Christmas tree but didn’t have time for the traditional trek into the woods to hunt it down. So, they got out the artificial one in the attic and decorated it, using what time and resources they had to create a more relaxed and enjoyable family evening.

However another family in the neighborhood took the exact opposite route — they climbed into the truck, rode up to the mountains, hiked through the woods, fell the tree, carted it home, and decorated it. And that all-day affair ended up being exactly what that family needed to share as an enjoyable bonding adventure to celebrate the season.

As the holidays wind up or whirl into a frenzy, we should all listen to the urgings that work for us and our families. Don’t feel compelled to live someone else’s idea of the perfect holiday season, don’t feel pressured to adopt other families’ traditions, or do what is expected by others unless it is something that will enhance the holiday rather than enhance the hassle.

Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, it should be a time of peace, hope, and love rather than stress, guilt and frustration. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or another holiday, simplify the season so you can better celebrate the reason.

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family, and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at jdesmond@bdtonline.com.

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