I awakened in the early morning hours with thoughts associated to Christmas. Maybe my walk through Memorial City Mall in Houston yesterday was the catalyst that brought the season of the year to the forefront of my thoughts. It had not been my intent to walk through the mall, but I was attending a Christmas party at the Cheesecake Factory and it reportedly was somewhere in that vicinity.
I had wisely asked Siri for directions. Either I didn’t listen closely or Siri thought I needed exercise. I parked my car in the covered parking next to Dillard’s and embarked on a fifteen-to-twenty minute walk that eventually made me fashionably late to the party. Fortunately, the group was still waiting on two others, so I breathed a sigh of relief.
My trek to locate the Cheesecake Factory was done solely by never entering inside the mall. I walked on the periphery of the buildings. I had been told the restaurant’s location was on the outside of the mall. The longer I walked dodging a seamless line of cars making their way to an unknown location in search of an unfilled parking space, the more I worried that I might never find my car again. I had made so many turns that I was beginning to think I’d never find the restaurant and I was equally sure that my car was forever gone from the resources of my recovery.
The Christmas luncheon was exceptional. Folks were optimistically ready to start their holiday pilgrimage. In fact, one lady was starting her Christmas vacation today. She is going home for Christmas and driving to Tennessee. I assured her that we’d issue a Silver Alert for her and that she’d never be far from our thoughts.
If there is a downside to the Cheesecake Factory, it has to do with too many choices. Reading the menu was like reading a catalogue. I didn’t count the pages, but they are numbered and I was almost immobilized by decision- making. I momentarily settled on fish tacos. When I looked again, I noticed grilled steak tacos immediately following the listing for fish tacos. That sounded even better. Let me simply say, “I’d do it again in a heartbeat”. They were scrumptiously delicious.
Miracle of miracles, I did eventually make my way back to my car. I took a different route and entered inside the mall area at some point. I was shocked by how crowded the place was once I was inside. It was a diverse group of people – young and old and somewhere in between, vivacious looking folks and others who looked more worn out than they looked alive. The absence of their luster had nothing to do with their ages.
Do you ever look at folks and try to imagine what they are thinking or what they are feeling or what they’ve experienced? I suspected that excitement and joy was characteristic of many. For others, it seemed evident that dread and despair was a better description of where they were in their pilgrimage. Every single person in the periphery of my vision had a story. Sometimes simply sharing one’s story gives a person some level of freedom to process life and to ascertain the fluidity of emotions and the changing nature of one’s journey.
Four years ago when my son surprisingly arrived home from a deployment to Afghanistan a few days before Christmas, his wife thoughtfully surprised their children with a large wrapped box. It was on their driveway when they arrived home from school. My granddaughter and youngest grandson wanted to immediately open the box. My oldest grandson suggested they wait until Christmas.
Leave it to William to always opt for the most mature and responsible choice. He was outnumbered (mature and responsible people always are). In Craig’s behalf, It was fortunate that the box was opened immediately. That Christmas video will serve as my favorite Christmas movie for all time. It was a very welcomed contrast to an earlier Christmas and a previous deployment. That Christmas weighed heavily on his family and was particularly difficult for his children.
Regardless of your Christmas story this year, it is sometimes helpful to chronicle your thoughts and write it all down. Writing it down is a cathartic process that lends itself to good medicine. I highly recommend it.
Whether you have the privilege of reading a person’s story or simply hearing it, empathy and understanding foster connections. Celebrate with folks for whom celebration is warranted. Encourage folks who are at a different place. Figure out the unspoken stories of those with whom you share life and do all you can to make their story better.
Earlier this week, a friend said: “This is the first Christmas since my divorce. Today my kids began their court ordered sixteen day Christmas vacation with their father. I’m not in a good place.” Even writing her story down brings a tear to my eyes. Life can be tough.
A story shared by Vince Gill through his writing and his music will sadly be one reflective of what many of my friends are experiencing this year. The song is entitled “It Won’t Be The Same This Year”:
“It’s time to pack our bags and hit the highway,
And head on out for Christmas holiday,
I’ll fall apart when I pull in the driveway,
It’s my first time home since brother passed away,
His favorite time of year was always Christmas,
We’ll reminisce about the days gone by,
Oh how I wish that he was still here with us,
My memories with him will never die,
But when the stockings are hung,
And silent night has been sung,
And Christmas is finally here,
It won’t be the same this year,
Losing my big brother hurt so badly,
It’s help me learn what Christmas really means,
There’s nothing more important than your family,
We’re all the children of the king of kings.”
Regardless of where you are in your pilgrimage, the story of Christmas is the story of life and the story of love. The distractions and disappointments that can seem overwhelming are not the final chapter of one’s story. The last chapter is summed up in the words: “There’s nothing more important than your family, We’re all the children of the king of kings.”
All My Best!
Apple Computer, Inc.
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