Give the Gift of Presence

newtown-christmas620x350A strange week to say the least. Between mourning the tragedy in Newtown and the anticipation of the holidays, I am trying to sort out my thoughts and feelings of what seems like opposing experiences. How can I honor both experiences simultaneously? How can I honor the lives lost and still celebrate? How can I make the tragedy a personal wake-up call for my own life and not just for the nation?

The holidays are filled with opportunity to be around people, whether it’s family gatherings, parties, religious services or last minute shopping. These opportunities allow for us to not just be around them, but truly connect with each other.

While we often hunt for the perfect gift for our sister or best friend, we could give one that is more meaningful and FREE. We could give the Gift of our Presence. Yes, it may be cheesy or cliché, but can also be incredibly powerful.

Here are a few ways you can give the Gift of Presence:

Mend Friendships – Many people are speaking about how we can peace in our communities these days, but what about start with creating peace in our own circles. Are there any strained relationships that could use some mending? Are there are resentments that could be forgiven? I know there are few in my circles. My friend, Dr. Stephanie May, came up with this brilliant idea after much soul searching, and I just had to share it. If we can “Be the Change” of creating peace, then our communities and nation will be more peaceful.

Have Authentic Conversations – Despite the hectic schedule of the holidays, I consciously try to have meaningful conversations with family and friends, rather than surface chitchat. Far too often we speak from a place of automaticity, rather than authenticity. When people ask how are you doing, give them a real response beyond the automatic “fine.” Seek a deeper response in their answer as well; find out what’s really happening their lives. Brady Quinn, KC Chiefs quarterback, eloquently shared a similar message after the domestic violence tragedy with teammate, Jovan Belcher. By having authentic conversations, we show people that they matter and you care.

Create Gadget Free Time – The holidays often mean spending time with friends and family, but I know for me that most of that time is with my phone in hand. While I may be sitting with my family, I am checking Facebook or playing Angry Birds. As a result, I miss out on spending real time with people I care about. If we put the gadgets down, turn off the TV and spend real face-to-face time with our loved ones, we can truly stay connected.

Count Your Blessings – As the year comes to an end, it often is a time of reflection. And with this year in particular after all the tragedies, I am going to count my numerous blessings. While it may be easy to recall all the things that went wrong, it’s often more powerful to recognize our successes and be PRESENT to the greatness within ourselves and our lives.

After such a roller coaster of a year, and especially this last week, join me in taking the time this holiday season to count our blessings and truly connect with the people in our lives. With the simple Gift of Presence, we can make this holiday one to remember.

Reflecting back on 2011- Preparing for 2012

As the year comes to an end, people often reflect on what has transpired over the past year. How is my life different from 2010? It is an important question to ask and ponder. Are you getting closer to your goals and dreams? Perhaps even achieving them? Can you measure growth? . If you haven’t done this before, or you haven’t done it so thoroughly, I highly recommend starting the tradition.

When I reflect on the year, I look at the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s important to look at ALL that has transpired. If you only look at the good, then often the bad and the ugly hangs on like dead weight and baggage in the new year. It’s important to let go of any baggage accumulated from this past year – starting fresh in 2012. It’s also important to consider, if we only look at the ugly, then we miss the growth that has occurred. The good stuff is just as important as the ugly stuff.

When you reflect on the questions below, I recommend taking the time to write it down. You can be more thorough and visually see your year on paper.

The Good Stuff – What have you accomplished this year – professionally, personally, financially? What were the pleasant surprises of the year? Did you learn any lessons about yourself? About life? Celebrate this good stuff and share it with loved ones!

The Bad Stuff – What disappointments or regrets did you experience this year? What were some of the not so pleasant surprises? What mistakes did you make that you learned from? Try to bring some compassion and forgiveness to these moments, so you can let go and move on. If there are some lessons to learn from these experiences, be sure to take those with you into 2012.

The Ugly Stuff – What were the moments of 2011 that you would rather forget about altogether? The important part is that you have survived the ugly stuff. Although challenging, I invite you to bring up the memories, the feelings, and judgments, so you can let them go and move on. What’s also important in letting the ugly stuff go is finding the lesson, the gift, in these experiences. While this too can be a struggle, it helps in moving on so that they don’t linger or hold you back in the future.

Reflecting on the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2011 will give you the opportunity to celebrate all your successes, learn the important lessons, and let go of any excess baggage to make 2012 the best year ever!