After living almost 18 years in New Zealand, I left with many fond memories and a trove of rich experiences. One of the customs that has left a lasting imprint is the concept of Boxing Day – the day after Christmas when many of the kind citizens of the country “box” up some of the gifts that they have received and donate to those whose holiday gift experience was meagre at best. When I worked with various charities, we made an effort to take part in the collections and distribute to those we know were in need – usually quietly and confidentially, with no embarrassing fanfare or self-congratulatory selfies.
I felt proud and honored to take part and be a member of the “charitable crowd.” It feels good to give. What I didn’t realize is how hard it can be to receive. Years later, I found myself and my children in dire straights – in a strange place with little in the way of resources or the ability to navigate the system. A church, realizing our difficulties, held an anonymous food drive to make sure that I was able to feed my family. I have never been so ashamed or relieved. Tough as it was, it taught me a powerful lesson – giving is a joy, but asking and receiving often takes courage and humility. Out of shame and fear, we fail to reach out – instead, we suffer alone.
In this holiday season, I have the opportunity, once again, to reflect with gratitude on the many gifts in my life. I also realize that we are a wealthy nation where millions still struggle every day to find joy in their lives and enough security to sleep well at night – belly full and bed clean. I believe that there are many ways that we can bring the bounty and benevolence of Boxing Day into our lives. Here are some that I have found helpful and grounding:
- Remember the elderly around you. Are there people spending the holiday season alone? Check on neighbors and elderly relatives and extend the gift of time and attention.
- While enjoying the convenience of online shopping, remember the small shopkeepers in your local community and consider spending some of your shopping dollars locally – so everyone can benefit from the generosity of the season.
- Make a few extra phone calls on special days – reach out to those whom you rarely touch and wish them well for the season and the New Year.
- Instead of buying lots of stuff – consider a shared gift that involves time, a sense of celebration, a chance to listen and laugh – a shared meal perhaps?
- The ‘giving trees’ in banks and shopping centers actually give real gifts to real kids who are likely to be sidelined in the holiday joy. Please place a gift under the tree.
- Be kind. Being with family is not always easy. You may have been born into a group of kin that you normally wouldn’t choose as friends. However, putting old grudges and past stories behind, taking the time to listen and find common ground and just imparting an extra dash of consideration, respect, and kindness into the mix may begin to gently heal or strengthen the bonds of family love.
Boxing Day is but one single day of organized thoughtfulness. I would like for there to be dozens more throughout the year…Boxing Weekends! In the meantime, I hope this holiday season and the year beyond brings all of you boxes of laughter, wonder, adventure, and prosperity!