For many of us, the holidays bring a welcome break from our busy routines and offer us time to celebrate, rest, enjoy traditions, and gather with loved ones. But for those who are hurting after a difficult year, the holidays can make heartache feel even more pronounced. This may be a neighbor's first Christmas after losing a loved one or walking through divorce. Many people will have an empty seat at their tables representing a family member who is deployed, or sick, or far away and unable to travel to be with them.
As we head into a season that is marked by parties, celebration, and generally joyful spirits, here are a few ways we can be attuned to our neighbors who may need a little extra care:
1. Ask your neighbors about their holiday plans.
If you know someone who has gone through a difficult year, make sure to check in with them and ask about their holiday plans. Ask them what they're looking forward to and also what might be new, different, or challenging for them this year. Showing genuine interest is a great way to open the door for others to share freely what's on their heart as they enter the holidays.
2. Offer Practical Care and Assistance
You might be nervous to acknowledge a loss or a trial that someone has experienced, but don't be. Recognizing someone's grief is a simple way to let them know they're seen and cared for. Follow up with an offer to care for them in a practical or needed way. Perhaps they'd like help setting up their Christmas tree or checking items off their shopping list. Ask if they have a special holiday tradition, like baking cookies or watching a favorite movie, and ask if you can share the experience with them.
3. Invite Others In.
If you're not sure how to best care for a neighbor who might be lonely or struggling, start with an invitation! Invite them to a meal, a party, or even just to go for a walk around the block. Consider some of your own favorite traditions and think of ways that you can intentionally involve a neighbor or two. You might host a baking party and decorate cookies together or invite someone over for a cup of hot chocolate while you listen to Christmas music. It doesn't need to be expensive or extravagant. Prioritize simple ways that you can bring others into the things that you are already doing and enjoying during the holiday season.
While we can never take someone else's pain away, we can bring immense comfort by being present and intentional during a season that brings many emotions to the surface. Let's remember to reach out and extend an extra measure of goodwill to those who need it most this holiday season.
If you have ideas or examples of ways that you've gone the extra mile to care for a neighbor during the holidays, we want to hear from you! Drop us a comment below.