Yesterday, as I was scrolling through the countless emails in my inbox that screamed various messages such as, "Cyber Monday is here! Take 50% off one item!" or "FREE SHIPPING!" or ""Don't miss out! Cyber Monday Deals!" I suddenly felt very overwhelmed.
After having spent a wonderful, relaxing Thanksgiving weekend visiting family in a different state, I now have to unpack suitcases, do laundry, run errands, as well as the many tasks required of me on any given day of the week, let alone during the Christmas season. I looked at my husband and said, "Ugh. Now I have find an hour or two tomorrow to sit down at the computer and do some shopping for Christmas gifts."
Because the deals.
They are out there.
And I? Cannot miss out.
Of course, Bill just calmly looked at me all, "Well, don't get yourself all stressed out over it. Just do what you can do."
Just do what I can do?
Well, I want to do it ALL, of course.
There's this little thing that I am sorely lacking these days, and it's something that all of us could use more of.
And suddenly? I felt very, very ridiculous.
As parents, we all know the drill this time of year. The minute that the commercials start in mid-October, the kids start in with their desires of iPods. And computer tablets. And expensive clothing. And video games. And various other requests. Of course, they will not get it all. I remind them that they will get some. Not all.
When the Christmas season is upon us, our family honors the season of Advent, and we talk about the birth of Jesus, and what it this glorious season is all about. We assure them that it has not a thing to do with new 32-gig iPods and Under Armour sweatshirts. And they, like good little children, nod their heads in acknowledgment and say, "Yes, Mom, we know. We know it's about Jesus. We know it's about family. We know these things."
Then they say, "Mom? Now can I have another piece of paper? My Christmas list is so long it won't fit on this one. Also? How do you spell, 'Lego Ninjago'?"
Or maybe that's what I thought I heard.
I've always wanted our family to participate in Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, to try and counteract the severe cases of, "The Gimmes" that attack my dear shorties from October through December.
But that would take thought and action. And thought and action require time. And time? Well, I'm just plain out of that precious commodity.
At least that's what I tell myself.
So last night, as Bill and I fervently willed our exhausted bodies to stay awake so we could wait until all of the kids were asleep before moving Christopher, our blasted Elf on the Shelf that my kids have grown to love, we failed, and succumbed to sweet, sweet slumber. Shortly before midnight, I awoke in a panic. I punched Bill in the arm and whispered loudly, "CRAP! THE ELF! WE DIDN'T MOVE IT!"
I was in a panic.
Over a cheap piece of felt and plastic.
Because THAT'S what Christmas is all about, right?
We hustled down the stairs, our brains barely coherent, trying to think of an idea for where to put the elf. Our eyes darted around the kitchen and family room, and we threw out a couple of lame ideas that we instantly nixed.
The ideas weren't big enough. They weren't grand enough. Elfin appearances of Christmas past have set us up for grandness.
This elf was already the bane of my existence, and he hadn't even made his first appearance of the year.
I looked over at the kitchen counter and saw two wine glasses that I had hand-washed earlier in the evening, drying on a paper towel, and I did this.
Afterwards, as I lie in bed, wishing for the same sleep that had come to me so easily a few hours earlier, I found myself wide awake. And what happens when one can't sleep? One thinks. And thinks. And thinks.
And all I could think about is how my priorities at the current moment are wackity-wack.
Somehow I had prioritized the elf above Random Acts of Christmas Kindness.
Because of time. And the lack of it.
My brain was saying, "So, basically, Clare, what you are saying is that you don't have time for kindness. Is that what you are saying? Because that's about 15 different kinds of selfish."
This is not the soundtrack you want playing in your head at 12:42 a.m.
It's not that I'm not kind. Without tooting my own horn too much, I like to think I am a very kind and caring person. I do for others, not just at Christmastime, but all year round. I tend to surround myself with other kind people of substance. But I have been looking for a way to cement the real feeling of what the Christmas season is all about to my children all these years, and it has been sitting there, in my brain, the whole time. I have just chosen to ignore it.
Because there's never enough time.
But here's where I have it all wrong. There's ALWAYS time to go out of my way for someone else. ALWAYS time to show my children that kindness is way more gratifying than a new iPod. ALWAYS time for a smile and a simple, "Can I help you?" or "Thank you for what you do." ALWAYS time to tell someone what they mean to me.
Of course, the elf and all the other Christmas "stuff" fits into the category of fun. It is the stuff of childhood magic that makes Christmas a bit dreamier. I will continue to do it because there is nothing quite like the look in the eyes of a child when you can see that they still believe in magic.
Because, like time, magic and innocence is a rare, precious commodity these days, and we want our children to cling to it for as long as their little bodies and minds can.
But kindness? Well, it's all around us, in spades, and it lives in us and breathes in us. It remains in us long after we stop believing in magic. It's necessary all year long, not just at Christmas.
And so begins our family's journey of Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, which I hope will just become Frequent Random Acts of Kindness when the season is over. During the next month, we will try to do at least one act of kindness every day, and I will try to find the time to write about it on this blog. I do not intend this to be a self-promoting way to brag about my family and how kind and awesome and wonderful and perfect we are, because I assure you, we are not. We are just flawed, but well-intentioned human beings who are trying to put some good out into the world every, single day. Our intention is not to promote ourselves, but rather, kindness.
Because there's always time for a little kindness.