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25 Dec 2013
Merry Christmas to the Forgotten. And who pray tell are the forgotten? For as long as I can remember, the winter holidays from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s Eve, have been “all about family.” Who hasn’t said that since time immemorial? Of course, these holidays are a time for family . . . if you have family. Nearly every Christmas special emphases family. For a month prior to Christmas the T.V. and cable companies are broadcasting Christmas specials, and the stories always end with a family together, happy, and full of deep joy. Is this real life? Is everyone happy with a house full of family and loved ones at Christmas? Or have we forgotten someone? Have we forgotten a major portion of Americans? I want to say Merry Christmas to the forgotten, and here’s who they are.
You might think the forgotten are our military, but they are not. We certainly have not forgotten the ones who protect us and our freedoms. We are deeply grateful to our military, especially those who are still serving in the field and cannot be home at Christmas. But we let them know they are not forgotten in a hundred ways, as we should. They deserve our encouragement and thanks. But there is a group of people who are forgotten every Christmas and will be again next year.
Millions of Americans are alone without family. They may have lost their spouse to death or divorce. They may have outlived their siblings. They may have lost a child or more than one child. Their family may not be close and may live far away. Their family may not visit them during the holidays, either because they do not have a close relationship or because they cannot afford to travel. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 100 million single people in the U.S. above the age of 18. Thirty one million live alone. Seventeen percent of singles are over the age of 65. There are 11.6 million single parents. Of course, not all of these people are alone at Christmas. Many are blessed to be with “family.”
There are millions of Americans who are the forgotten, who are alone, who are without family. That’s why I say, “Merry Christmas to the forgotten.”
Next time you casually chat with someone around the holidays, be careful you don’t inadvertently remind them of their losses or that they will be alone when everyone else is with family. For many, Christmas is a painful reminder of losses, especially the loss of loved ones. Christmas is never the same when you’ve lost someone you love, because you are reminded every Christmas they are not there. But if you at least have family, you can find hope and encouragement beyond such losses. But many don’t have family. Saying, “Christmas is a time to be with family” to one of the forgotten can be like rubbing salt in a wound. Christmas is a time to be with family, unless you don’t have family at Christmas.
If you want to encourage someone during the holidays, don’t start by talking about how you are so excited about spending time with all the children and grandchildren and about all the good food and how wonderful it will be for you and your spouse of 30 years. Those are all good things, and if you are there, you have much to be thankful for. Instead, may I suggest that if you begin a conversation with someone and you have no idea where they are in life right now with respect to family and their holiday experiences, simply ask them, “What do you have planned for yourself this Christmas?” The answer will tell you immediately if they will spend it with family or alone. If they are going to spend it alone, give them a strong word of encouragement. Not something cheap, but something like, “God bless you this Christmas,” [or words equally encouraging] and give them a hug or look them in the eyes when you say that and shake their hand long and meaningfully.
Merry Christmas to you if you are alone this Christmas. God bless you. Merry Christmas to the forgotten! Today, at least here, you are not forgotten.
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