Never take anything for granted.
And that includes assuming everyone we know has always, or at least at some point in their lives, participated in the Christmas season.
That is certainly an assumption I made recently when starting the process of decorating the house for Christmas.
My nephew was visiting along with his fiancé, Enita, who is from Bosnia.
I wanted to decorate before the busy Thanksgiving weekend since I will actually cook two big dinners over the weekend, so I brought out the boxes full of decorations as well as a tree of course.
They both wanted to help, but then Enita stood silently, finally saying she did not know what to do.
She had never participated in decorating for the holiday before because Bosnia is primarily a Muslim country, so the process was totally new to her.
But it did not take her long to jump in and use her own decorating tastes.
She loved it and did a great job, far better than I could ever do.
And she had no preconceived negativity toward the holiday at all.
She simply had not grown up celebrating it and was thankful she could participate, embracing the opportunity and learning from it.
Watching her and seeing the fun she was having reminded me of how it’s not the place but the person, and we are in some ways like pinballs, being pushed around by unseen forces we have no control over and sent to very unexpected places.
She was far from home, completely out of her element, but was eager to learn and appreciate the experiences that were presented to her.
I can recall many times in my life when I wish I would have had that attitude, willing to get out of my comfort zone and try new things, meet new people, participate and learn, and just have a good time.
Making assumptions can sure inhibit that, as well as having an attitude of being cloistered from so many things in life, somehow thinking they, including people, may have nothing to offer.
But as I eventually learned, we learn and grow from new experiences, and from people.
In fact, those experiences and people sometimes just seem to fall out of the sky for no apparent reason and end up changing our lives.
Looking back, I can remember the times that has happened, a chance encounter, a simple twist of fate.
And the course of our lives may change.
If you would have told Enita a few years ago she would be in this country, in a strange house, with people of a different nationality, decorating a Christmas tree, she probably would have looked at you and laughed.
Come to think of it, if you would have told me a few years ago I would be living and working back here and decorating a Christmas tree in my grandmother’s house, I would have laughed.
“Yeah, right,” is exactly what I would have said.
At the time, moving back here was not on my radar. I had never even considered the idea.
But, just as in her case, a series of events happened, many appearing to be unrelated at the time, but like falling dominoes they led to this.
Things happened out of the blue and then, one after another, events fell into place.
And here I am. Here she is.
Some will be quick to say that, well, it’s all just random chance, it doesn’t mean anything.
I guess that’s possible.
But I choose to believe otherwise.
Sure, things happen to us that, in hindsight, probably didn’t really mean much.
On the other hand, even a small “coincidence” may be a gear in a much larger machine that has to engage before it all works together to turn a wheel and power an engine.
We can either believe in random chaos or we can believe life has meaning.
It is a choice we all must make.
This time of year in particular, the meaning is celebrated.
We should never take that meaning, or the freedom to celebrate it, for granted.
Charles Boothe is a reporter for the Daily Telegraph and can be reached at email@example.com