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Kind Thoughts and the Festive Spirit

December 22, 2013

It is the festive season and a thousand thoughts flood through the minds of us all.

I know many for whom Christmas may be a joyous day, yet the preparation is a heavy burden. People begin to dread the upcoming festivities. What to get for somebody else? What to prepare? What to…

It is a modern malaise to avoid! We must attempt to recover the essence of Christmas. I can not tell you everything to do. But let me give you a guiding principle. Do good deeds backed by kind intentions. Do not worry about the end here, for it is the thought that counts.  I talked about how means are in themselves ends. You see, the gift itself – it’s functional value – may be better if professionally crafted. Yet, there are externalities – things outside the functional value – that contribute to the total value of your gift.

I had an event called Candy Cane Drive at our school recently. The basic idea is that you buy a candy cane for a friend, write a message, and your message is delivered on a certain day. Hundreds were sold – a testament to the goodwill of many – yet everybody wrote on the bleak bits of paper and cardboard provided by my school’s leadership team. Oh, they had a bit of colour, and you could write a bit, but not much. You could see hundreds of the cards, and many were nearly identical.

I decided to do things differently.

I made my own card, handcrafted parts of it. I was the only person in the entire school, to my knowledge, to actually personalise their card. And that is a tragic figure. Now I’ll confess – I didn’t handcraft the second card I sent, though I did personalise the words as much as possible. But my wrongs do not excuse others!

When you do something specific for somebody you’re subconsciously sending a message. In the case of making a card you’re saying “I spent the time to make you this, and consider your interests. I considered you important enough to sacrifice my own time in the hopes of brightening your day just a little.

These little messages make a difference. Another anecdote:

It was the last day of school. I’d had a swell afternoon with some friends after-school. I was reading a good book, thinking about a lovely drink I’d had with these friends – sometimes a material thing does add a welcome touch, a welcome frame of mind – and well… I got off the bus. Regular occurrence. A young lady gets out after me. I take a step or 2, and then she says “You live on the end of the street, don’t you?” or something to that effect.

This is a very strange question. I live in a house on the corner of a side street – a fork in the road if you will. You wouldn’t call it the end of the street normally. Not by a long shot.

It turned out that I’d met the young lady at our little cul de sac’s Christmas party a few years back. We haven’t had a party for a few years because the person who used to organise them moved. But that’s not the point. This lady, who I didn’t even recognise and had likely scarcely talked to before, remembered me. That’s the sort of thing that brightens your day. We then had a convivial discussion for a minute or two, discussing potentially organising the party at the penultimate hour and such. Then, I was turning away to walk to my house and she farewelled me. I returned the farewell. Now, why wasn’t I the one to say it first? Why did I have to be reminded of such a simple courtesy before I spoke?

That moment left a final touch of happiness. I’d had a good afternoon, yet this final kindness and memory gave me a happiness which lasted all evening and into the next day. You see, a little act of kindness can change our perception of the day and brighten it.

Behind all these acts is an admirable humanity and kindness. I like to think that these traits are personified in the classic image of the English gentleman and lady. You see, these traits are quite separate from impersonal detachments. Yes, mere gifts can grease the social wheels – that’s why we give gifts! – yet thoughtful gifts do far more. For mere gifts are the cherry on top, not the cake! When we frenetically worry about that cherry, we are misplacing our efforts. For if the cherry is missing yet the cake delicious we shall be fine, but if the cake missing and the cherry present our enjoyment shall be gone.

Act kindly. Do noble deeds, with personal thought behind them. That’s what we want Christmas, and then all the other times of our lives, to be about.

Live the day with meaningful, kind thoughts driving your actions.


From → Foundations

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