“The Heritage of the Past is the Seed That Brings Forth the Harvest of the Future.”
This quote from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. is dense with meaning and application.
The first gathering for thanks most likely occurred in 1621 even though it wasn’t officially recorded until two years later. As you learned early in your academic studies, the settlers had had many obstacles in the heritage of their past that posed challenges unlike any other. Let’s face it. The majority of us will never know what kind of hardship and trials they faced.
These families focused on what they DID have, not what they had lost. Unlike the photos and popular belief, they wore clothes of bright colors and enjoyed song, dance, and outdoor activities. In fact, this tradition began after they had experienced a two month drought. Gratitude.
As You Gather Together….
These are the “seeds” that you plant in the present:
- Refuse to react. If someone “pushes your buttons,” you make the choice that it will not bother you. Take a deep breath, leave the room, or let it roll off your shoulders. Learning the skill to de-escalate will take you a long way.
- Find common denominators. There tends to be a focus on what divides in relationships. I encourage you to intentionally find what unites. This could be as simple as watching a movie, playing board games, cooking, sports, etc.
- Focus on the people. Focus on the people who are present. What do they enjoy? What are their interests? What are their hobbies or career interests? What current challenges do they face? How can you encourage them?
- Don’t “go there” with hot topic issues. Decide ahead of time that if you know people at the same gathering have different philosophical ideas, a boundary should be erected before the conversation begins to snowball. If someone tries to push buttons among the group, kindly respond that it’s not the time or place. Use appropriate body language, words, and tone. Shift the focus on an idea or topic for all to contribute.
- Ask open-ended questions. Nothing will diffuse a potential argument than incorporating this technique. If someone offers an opinion, ask the following: “Tell me why that’s important to you,” and then leave it at that. Don’t offer your own side of looking at things. You won’t change someone’s belief system while gobbling down turkey.
- Ask each other what you are thankful for. This is an especially useful “tool” if you’ve experienced hardship or grief this last year. Why? Science has proven that if you intentionally focus on what is going well, it balances out your cognitive thinking so the negatives don’t spiral you emotionally. The perfect ratio is >3 to 1 (listing at least 3 things you are thankful for even in the midst of the one negative event).
- Be flexible. If families have changed, are blended, or experienced loss, be flexible and forgiving with the traditions of the past (what to fix, when to meet, etc.). Remember: it’s not the tradition that you’ve held, it’s about creating memories with people you care about.
- Forgive. This isn’t about the other person, it’s about you. Forgiveness is a process (much like grief), and must be “walked through” with a pastor, counselor, or life coach. Forgiveness is about letting yourself off the hook, not the offender. Life’s too short to hold to grudges and bitterness. Do something about it now. It’s about YOU moving ahead in life.
- Grief. If you have experienced loss, somewhere along the line you’ve adopted a belief that says, “I must stay strong for the family.” You have permission to cry and acknowledge your loss among your gathering. Of course things are different. You are embarking on a “new normal” and right now you have no idea what that looks like. So, cry together, laugh together, and remember the person who is no longer there. It promotes the healing promotes and is the first step in the grief process. In holidays to come, you may want to remember their memory in a special way at family gatherings. Be creative and allow your idea to fully embrace the person who is no longer with you.
- Dress colorfully. As simple or silly as this may sound, there’s psychological benefit to wearing something that positively affects your emotions and makes you feel good.
- Hobbies. Between gatherings, be sure to build your resiliency “tool box” with things you enjoy – reading, resting, painting, etc. These hobbies and healthy coping skills make you resilient during times of stress.
Let this season of gathering be joyful – regardless of hardship and trial – and decide now to take ownership of what YOU bring to the table.
Life Coaching Tip:
Regardless of the “heritage” behind you, you decide what “seed” to plant TODAY that will reap a future “harvest” in your life.
This is HOPE UNVEILED!