“Life is messy and full of the unexpected. Peace is often elusive.” I was reminded of these truths recently – it was exactly what I needed to reset my headspace on the importance of the holiday season.
Despite being one of the shortest months in our school calendar, December is certainly one of the busiest. Between report cards, arts performances, college applications, service experiences, robotics tournaments, business team meetings and athletic competitions, our boys are quite busy. So too are our teachers who lead these activities with such dedication, as well as parents who support them with regular attendance, participation, and drop-off and pick-up. Compounding the demands are many additional commitments outside of school that ramp up for everyone at this time of year. Add in the surge of road work and heavy traffic, and we are all left desiring some respite from the messiness of school life.
The trap of the holiday season is that it can distract us from what is most important: what we cherish, who we love, and where we find peace. For me, these things are not found in a shopping mall, Cyber Monday sale or online store. Yet, despite my best effort, I am sometimes drawn into making the holidays about the perfect gift or the best deal, only to discover I have missed something along the way. I often find myself speeding up at this time of year rather than slowing down; tuning into the experiences that promise satisfaction and happiness rather than the practices that bring me calm and focus. Whether that is racing to complete the next errand, accepting the next social invitation, or replying quickly to the next email request, at times I find peace harder to locate in the flurry of the December days.
However, our traditions and holiday practices with family and friends call us into a different way of life over the next two weeks. Whether we will gather in a place of worship, in a loved one’s home, or even in a quiet nook, I believe that we are invited over this next fortnight to a deeper reality of awareness, rest and gratitude, a time away to reimagine how we can be at peace. We might begin with simply asking, “Am I at peace?” “What brings me hope and joy in the unexpected?” “What source do I draw on for living a peaceful life?” In quieting our daily practice and living an unhurried life, we can contemplate what gives us true contentment and nourishes our wellbeing.
And so, as we retreat from school, let us do so knowing that we deserve time to be still; to live a little less messily with those we love, without the things that make peace elusive, and with the world we are called to serve.