Holiday times are difficult for a lot of people.

There are movies about how it is supposed to be “all about family” and being grateful for what we have…

…and the newspaper columnists and writers all tell us not to overeat, enjoy the time with have with our family and be thankful for what we “do have” rather than what we “don’t have.”

Good advice but hard for a lot of us.   Especially when we look at how difficult the holidays are for an awful lot of people.

It’s difficult for most of us to live up to how others “think we should act” during the holidays.

So … mostly the majority of us turn into “grinches” during the holiday season.

I moved back to the northwoods of Minnesota two years ago after retiring to Costa Rica shortly after 9/11.

Believe me, I was not grateful for snow, subzero weather and dreary weather after living in a tropical climate for over a decade.

And I had forgotten what it was like in the States…

And honestly, I felt like a “stranger in a strange land.”

Both of my parents had passed away while I was overseas… and even though I saw them at least twice yearly, their absence made the holidays even worse.   And my sister, who cared for them in their last years and saw them daily, decided that her family holidays were more important than “yesterday’s family traditions where EVERYONE got together.”

My wife and I were alone.   Even in Costa Rica we had more family than we now had here.

And not only were the holidays and the surroundings different but I had come back to a country I didn’t recognize.   A country where racial division existed again, and where the government had changed into a format that didn’t resemble the democracy that I remembered when I left.

I remembered a Christmas and holidays as family, sharing and giving.   I remember church services growing up, and extended family gatherings and tradition.

But it wasn’t there anymore. At least I didn’t see it.

That alone was depressing, because I felt alone… even though I had my wife, her family and two of our three children.   They were making their own traditions and we were not included.

So I felt sorry for myself.

And… like so many others… I did not look forward to Christmas.

Until something changed…

It was a little thing… and I didn’t realize at the time what a huge difference it made in my attitude…

My wife said one day “I’m going to make scones and let’s take some to the neighbors as a Christmas present.”

“why?”, I said.

“because it’s Christmas and I want to wish them Merry Christmas and show them that we are thinking about them.”

How could I argue with that … without looking even more like a grinch than I already was?

We don’t have a lot of neighbors, in fact less than ten… more like 8. Some have kids, some are retired… most we don’t know and there really aren’t any neighborhood gatherings like there used to be about a hundred years ago when I was a kid.

So I wasn’t excited about giving scones away that I should have had ( I love my wife’s scones )

We boxed up the scones packages with bows and started out…

The first couple ( with two kids ) was so shocked that we would actually knock on their door and wish them Merry Christmas ( not to mention give them a present ) that the wife actually started crying.

The older, retired couple?   We spent an hour there and found out that we had a LOT in common … I was shocked… because I am a Grinch so I didn’t have too many good expectations.

Every single stop was not only well received but … because we actually made the step to reach out and wish them “merry Christmas” it was reciprocated.

But the best part?

I didn’t feel like a Grinch any longer.

Stupid?   Hard to believe?

Yeah, I would have thought so too.

But thanks to my wife’s nudge, her scones, and neighbors we didn’t really know and a tiny bit of effort on my part… Christmas has returned.

Thanks for reading.

And may you rediscover Christmas and the Holiday Season too.