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Keeping the Holiday Spirit Alive

Posted Dec 04 2010 3:14pm

One thing depression has taught me is how to be more compassionate and to have empathy for others.  It's so easy to get sucked into your own little world when you're depressed, but in doing so it only makes your depression worse.  When I volunteer, donate money, or go to meetings regarding issues I feel strongly about I always feel better about myself afterwards.   As a result, it helps to diminish those intense feelings of sadness inside of me if only for a little while. 

The holidays make it easier for people to become more involved in their communities and that's a good thing.  Whether it's by dropping money into the red kettles the Salvation Army has located at nearly every store you go to, or by "adopting" a family for Christmas in which you buy items that so many of us take for granted such as soap, socks, towels, food, blankets, etc.  There are also programs such as Toys for Tots , run by the U.S. Marine Corp, or "Coats for Kids" in which you can donate coats, hats, mittens, gloves, etc. to those who truly need them.

Yes, there are many ways in which you can do you share - regardless of how much you can afford... because every dollar matters.  What I would like to see is this type of generosity continued on throughout the year.   If we just take a moment and look at what we have,  know that there are others out there that have less than you.  I often donate to causes I believe in - and I wish I could donate to all, but let's get real - that's not gonna happen.  I don't send a lot - but I send what I can.  After all - isn't that why we're here?  Isn't life about how we treat others?  There is just too much hatred in the world, but if I can do my part - no matter how small, I know it will still make a difference.  That is what depression has helped to teach me - that life isn't about how much we can accumulate or how we can "one up" the next person... it's about showing kindness and compassion.  And if that's NOT what life is about then I really don't know why we're here. 

Remember, you don't have to buy anything or give money to make a difference - because let's face it - times are tough for everyone right now - and I mean EVERYONE.  Up until recently I volunteered at a domestic violence shelter for about two years.  I chose to volunteer there because of my own history of physical abuse when I was growing up.  I understood the "cycle of violence" and all about the " Power and Control Wheel ", which the shelter (and any abuse shelter) teaches.  Every time I left my "shift" I felt good about myself... it took me away from my own self-absorption in order to be there for someone else who was suffering worse than I was (or suffering in a different way).  I enjoyed interacting with the children and being able to put a smile on their face.  It made me feel good to be able to comfort the residents who just needed someone to talk to.  I would still be volunteering there today had it not been for my latest breakdown.  But it got to the point where I wasn't able to help in a way that I felt was acceptable.  Just to be there but not engaged wasn't fair to them. 

However, as I slowly recover I'm able to start becoming involved again in issues that I'm passionate about and it feels wonderful!  Next week I'll be attending an informational meeting regarding LGBT rights.  I believe in equality for all human beings.  Like the saying goes... "I'm straight, but not narrow!"  It's a start at least.  I don't know HOW involved I'll be able to become knowing that I'm still "on the mend", but I plan on just taking one day at a time...  Whatever is meant to be will be...

In conclusion, I'm grateful that there are program that emerge during the holidays to help the less fortunate, but it's not just during the holidays when they're in need of help.  That's what people need to remember.  Without a doubt, the spirit of the holiday season definitely brings out the best in everybody... SO... my wish this holiday is for people to understand this and to become involved after all the lights and decorations are taken down and put away... and when the routines of our daily lives take over once again.

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