“My parents did not leave my siblings and I a legacy of monetary wealth or a legacy of political power and influence. What they did leave us with, was the legacy of faithfulness to God and a relationship with Jesus Christ”
The Christmas songs declare that it is “the most wonderful time of the year,” yet for many of us, the end of the year is a bittersweet reminder of everything that went wrong during the past 365 days. Family and friends who are no longer physically with us. Opportunities that passed us by. A failure to meet the lofty goals of the previous year. Relationships that have burned to an unrecognizable pile of regret and hurt.
For me personally, 2015 was a year that was plagued by death. If it wasn’t death of family members or friends, it was the never ending news stories of tragedy after tragedy.
Who would have ever thought that we could grow numb to people just like us being robbed of life on a bi-weekly basis? Or that we could lose the ability to empathize with thousands upon thousands of refugees who lost their homes due to war? Was it the incessant media coverage? Or was it that we just love to pick fights on social media and turn every tragedy into a debate about public policy? I don’t know..
But at the very least, 2015 was a year that we should all review. We should make sure that we take the world in a different direction than the path that was taken in 2015.
At the annual Christmas Eve party that my family attends, one of my Grandpa’s old friends is the one who authored the quote that this post started with. He commanded the attention of all fifty of us squeezed into that small house with no microphones or amps. Young and old respected what he had to say because we’ve seen how he’s lived his life. We carefully listened to the words he said because all of us being there was due to the legacy of faith and family that his generation continued and built upon. My generation was able to grow up, with families that were by no means perfect, but were nevertheless united.
As 2015 winds down to its final hours today, I am fixated upon the topic of thankfulness. Even if you aren’t religious, there is something to be said about being thankful. Some people will go to the grave wishing that there was more. More time, more money, more pleasure, more traveling, more games, more technology, more books, more movies, more skills, more promotions, etc.
It’s a life that is spent chasing a mirage that never materializes when you reach the destination you were shooting for. We become jaded and cynical, and we can’t ever be content or happy because there is always that one thing that we could attain that would really make us happy.
Time to get out of my theoretical and stereotypical-generalization mentality. I’ll give you an example of how being thankful can change things.
I love my family. I’m very blessed and grateful for the time that I have with all four of them. However, I did not always feel this way. For a period in high school I was in flat out rebellion against the authority that was my parents, and I kept my sisters out of my life. Right before my senior year of high school there was a change (*cough cough El Pollo Loco) and then began the long journey of reconciliation. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, and if observing my life as a third party, that statement would appear to ring true as even as I moved away for college, the reconciliation process continued within my family.
I began to realize that I never EXPLICITLY stated that I loved or appreciated my dad, mom, or sisters. I’d say “I love you bro” to my best friend Josh or “I’m so grateful you’re my girlfriend” to Celina, but I never actually told my family that. It was always to be assumed and implied.
One time, my college pastor Abe delivered a sermon in which he talked about the importance of reconciling with the family to bring healing and how it can change family dynamics completely. I felt so convicted on the spot. So I decided to start very slowly acknowledging the sacrifices that my family made, and to begin thanking them verbally and publicly.
Before, I incorrectly felt as if I had to earn my family’s approval and affirmation. Because I didn’t hear it verbally, my excuse for not thanking them was that I shouldn’t have to do something that was not being reciprocated. However, I temporarily shoved that idea aside and started employing gratitude into my life.
This is the most important part. So if you think that this is “too long:didn’t read” then this is the major key that I’m trying to get at.
If we choose to dwell on the negative traits, tendencies, and actions of those who are close to us, they will never perform at a level that will satisfy us.
Obviously. We are human. But more importantly that realization leads to this action step:
We have the power to choose to see the good in those we are close to and to verbally acknowledge them for what they are good at and how we are grateful for them.
This forces us to dig deep to find out why we love our dads, moms, siblings, and friends. That’s the first part. The first step is completely pointless without part two which throws you, the reader into action.
See we can’t really be thankful without being empathetic. Empathy is feeling what someone else is feeling. If we realize that our absent dad is not around as much because he loves the family enough to work 60 hours a week to provide, then we can begin to appreciate the sacrifice that he is making.
If we learn to be more empathetic then we will be less quick to accuse and antagonize, and we will be quicker to listen and to defend those who are in distress.
In closing, I was talking with my friend Julissa the other night about how people are losing the ability to empathize. Go on Facebook, Twitter, or turn on the news and tune into any debate to get some confirmation about how people nowadays seem to only want to start fights to fuel their agendas.
Let us collectively make 2016 a year where we choose a perspective that sees circumstances through a lens of thankfulness. Regardless of what you choose to do in regards to being thankful, just remember that the legacy you will leave for your future children and for society is already being built right now with the choices that you make even today.
Thanks God for a great year. Never thought I’d survive college but by grace I did. Didn’t think I’d go on a whim to Mexico City to be with those who have suffered at the hands of human traffickers but I did. Most definitely didn’t think that I would lead a small group again, but it was an even better year than before. Thought my shortcomings in academia would screw me over and that I’d be unemployed forever, but that was a lie. So many injuries to grandparents that could have been fatal, and yet by the grace of God, they are still doing fine. Even amidst death, sickness, and change God is still good.