Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Gifts of Listening and Compassion

Christmas is a time of joy with carols ringing out their familiar tunes, children bubbling with excitement, brightly wrapped presents stacked under the tree, colorful lights strung along houses and bushes, and people wishing one another a "Merry Christmas." What we might miss amidst all of the hustle and bustle are those individuals too who are not looking forward to Christmas.

Recently, my mother and I had the opportunity to talk with a cashier at a local store. He was pleasant, like always, but when we talked about Christmas a sadness came over him. He told us that since his wife's passing, he no longer bothers with decorating. He proceeded to tell us that Christmas was his wife's holiday as she would set up nine trees in their home each year and one tree would have real candles in honor of her German heritage. By the end of our conversation, he was smiling again. Sometimes, all it takes during this chaotic season is a willingness to listen. Genuine listening is a gift that costs us nothing but means so much to the receiver. 

Checking out of our hotel room recently, I noticed that the concierge was distracted but continued to smile. When she went to grab my receipt, she looked up at me and said, "I'm more exhausted than I realized. This isn't even the printer." I empathized and said, "Lack of sleep certainly can make our brains feel sluggish." She then proceeded to tell me she was working on her day off and couldn't remember when she last had a day off. Before leaving, I told her I sincerely hoped she had a good day and that she'd be able to get the good night's rest that her body needed. For the fist time, she gave me a genuine smile and thanked me. Sometimes, all it takes during this bustling season is a desire to show compassion. Genuine compassion and kindness is a gift that once again costs us nothing but means so much to the receiver and often brings joy and peace back to the giver in return.

We never know what the people who cross our paths may be enduring. They may be having a bad day after a series of unfortunate events, they may have recently lost their job, they may be having marital problems, they may have a loved one who is fighting a serious illness, they might be having financial difficulties, or they may have recently lost a loved one. Neither taking the time to listen nor taking a few moments to show compassion and kindness require more than our time. Yes, our schedules can become overflowing during the Christmas season but there is always time to listen, to show we care, to extend kindness to others, to be compassionate and not just at Christmastime but every day of the year. So don't get tangle up in the lights and tinsel this Christmas and miss out on the blessings that God intends to bestow. He sent His Son into this world as a tiny baby to show His immense love for us. What better gift could we give Him than to show His love to others by listening genuinely and having truly compassionate hearts.

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