February - March 2019
One of the January chores, after New Year and the Twelve Days of Christmas, is the putting away of Christmas decorations. Being a bit of a traditionalist, I like to have a real Christmas tree, but inevitably it is something of a challenge to get it out of the house whilst keeping the needle drop to a minimum. There is also the question of what to do with the Christmas cards which have been thoughtfully and generously sent.
There is an increasing trend not to send Christmas cards, but rather to offer Christmas greetings via email or another form of social media – often with a charitable donation in lieu of the cost of the cards and postage. Whilst I totally understand the motivation behind this, I still think there is a place for the Christmas card. As it happens, I tend to send a fair few cards and, probably as a result, get quite a few in return, and I use them as part of the Christmas decoration. But the reason that I especially value the Christmas card is that I think there is something significant in taking a bit of time to compose a personal, albeit often brief, handwritten message to a friend. It is, I hope, read and valued by the recipient; and certainly I appreciate the care and attention another person has taken in writing to me.
But what to do with the pile of cards when Christmas is over. Of course, we can recycle them, or in some way reuse the pictures. But I find it also productive to re-read the messages, to think a little about the sender, and maybe to make contact with them – especially if there has been little other communication over the year. Another really creative idea someone gave me, and which I have adopted this year, is day by day to pray for each person who has sent a card. If prayer is not your thing, then you might equally find it beneficial just to spend a few moments thinking about the senders of your cards.
These are simply a few thoughts, but they point towards two important practices:
The first is the importance of the expression of our commitment and care to another person. A handwritten note or letter, which is often kept and treasured, is becoming something of the past. But can we still offer little personal greetings, by whatever medium, which express our consideration and concern for others?
And second, let us remain alert and aware to the needs of others. It is very easy for people, especially the ill or elderly, to become totallyisolated and almost invisible. Whether it might be the prompt from a Christmas card, or simply a prick of conscience, are there people to whom we should get in touch – maybe a visit or simply a phone call? We should never underestimate the difference which a small act of kindness can make.