Twas the weeks before the holidays and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. HUH? (insert record scratch sound). Each December, we all swim in the culture of holidays – for many, that’s Christmas.
Children get excited for presents and Santa’s yearly visit, we put trees in our houses and decorate them, the movies and music are on repeat, we hear stories about love, family and homecomings. Some of us buy special clothes – like the hated and beloved ugly sweater.
And don’t forget the cookies.
It’s like a month of sparkling theater draped over the country. We love it and hate the exhaustion of it. Sometimes both.
Yet, for some of us, probably more than most of us realize, there are darker and sadder stories running concurrently. In these day-to-day circumstances, the holidays are a reminder of past sorrow, loss, pain, and/or trauma, or a relentless daily flaunting of the huge disparities that not all of us can give our family the kind of holiday we would like.
At Futures Without Violence, the countless stories we hear every day about abuse and violence in families and communities, all of them tragic, some of them fatal, unfortunately do not stop in December. More than 60% of children in a national comprehensive survey experienced some form of violence whether direct or indirect. We see and hear first hand how many of us are still living with illness, trauma, grief, and loss.
For at least 3.7 million children who have been living in poverty since monthly cash payments from the child tax credit was rolled back, there is more stress and burden in their families this holiday season. And many children and their families are dealing with housing and food insecurity, pervasive addiction and mental health problems, hate crimes, racism and family rejection. The list goes on.
Connecting with ourselves and each other can help us feel a little better when things are not fair, beyond our control and just plain hard. And connection is the antidote we all need, whether it is spiritual, cultural or social. When we connect – with people, institutions, communities, or a higher power – we build trust, find belonging, faith and hope, and realize that we matter. What could be better than that?
For those who prefer solitude, this message is for you too. Connection doesn’t have to be big, loud and bold.
Here are some suggestions of 8 ways to connect over the holidays and in the New Year:
Connect with yourself by doing something that brings you peace of mind or joy. Take a walk, meditate, read a book, go to the movies, journal in a coffee shop, etc.
Call that person in your family or circle that is having a hard time this year.
Connect to your own culture: go to an event, learn the language, cook some food.
Bring some homemade food or a bag of groceries to someone you know could use it.
Make a meaningful gesture to atone for a past harm.
Write a letter to someone who is a survivor of violence who is incarcerated. https://survivedandpunished.org/guide-to-writing-letters/.
Volunteer your time at a local place of worship or non-profit.
Donate some toys or new winter clothes to a local program for survivors of violence. Find your state coalition to locate the nearest program to you that may be accepting donations. https://nnedv.org/content/state-u-s-territory-coalitions/
This list is a start – but you can come up with your own list of ways you can connect in 2023!
Connecting to ourselves and each other can brighten even the toughest times. It helps connect us across politics and identities, to experience a common humanity. Giving of yourself and to yourself is good for your mind, body and spirit and heals us and the world.