The holidays may be over, but I found myself reflecting on them recently, and wanted to share my thoughts with you as we enter the New Year that is 2014.
What does the holiday season mean to you? Does it mean spending time with family and friends? Do you enjoy the snowfall and subsequent sledding outside? Perhaps it's the giving and receiving of gifts that warm your heart? While these are all most certainly reasons that warrant enjoying this time of year, for me, what truly sets the holiday season apart is seeing not only the holiday spirit, but the human spirit at its best. I know what you're thinking (you watch the news!), sure there are those that knock others down to get their hands on that very last Big Hugs Elmo on Black Friday, but what I am talking about are those who instead go out of their way to do for others, in big and small ways alike. To pull a line from what has become a holiday classic Love Actually, "If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion... love actually is all around."
Perhaps the most obvious, or at least the most in your face example of the holiday spirit, are the bell ringers that greet you at the mall, the train station, the grocery store, and pretty much at every turn to raise funds for the Salvation Army. Did you know that even animals are getting in on this kind of fundraising? I came upon a story in our local newspaper this holiday season about a miniature horse saved from dire circumstances that now rings a bell during the holidays!
There are also the efforts of people everywhere who contribute to the Toys for Tots program, including one of our amazing sponsors Toys "R" Us. Starting in October and spanning through December, toys are collected and given as Christmas gifts to those who might otherwise not receive them - now that's a gift worth giving.
In recent weeks I've had many conversations about this very topic, the spirit of the holiday season, and I've heard many stories of those who volunteer their time during this very busy season. For instance, some of the mothers at a local school got together with their young daughters to visit a local Ronald McDonald House and bake cookies. Members of our young professionals group, The Lemon Society, often do something similar dedicating their evening three or four times a year to cook meals at the Ronald McDonald Houses in the Philadelphia area. This may seem like something simple, and something that we do every day for our families, but how meaningful it can be to bring that little piece of home to families who are often times far away from their own. One of my colleagues and her family take time on Christmas Day away from their meal to prepare and serve dinner at a local church open to anyone who needs or wants a meal that day. She recounts it as one of her favorite memories of Christmas, funny that it wasn't what she found under the tree that she remembers most vividly.
If you've been following along with Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation this holiday season, there is one more thing that I'd like to mention being worth giving -- hope. In our case it's hope to children battling cancer and their families. We have been sharing the story of a brave young cancer fighter, Jordan Vincent, who has been given the moniker "The Cancer Slayer." Jordan gives hope to so many, not just those who face similar circumstances, but to all of us who have ever stared into the eyes of adversity and instead of giving into it, defied it at every cost. Jordan's battle with cancer continues, and we dedicated our holiday campaign in 2013 to giving Jordan hope, and hope to all who fight childhood cancer, that Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation is here with them, doing everything we possibly can to find better treatments and ultimately cures. We hope as we enter the New Year, you will consider doing the same.
Hope is a powerful thing, and all of the examples that I have mentioned here are not only those of the holiday spirit and the human spirit, but also of the power of hope. I'll end by saying Happy New Year -- may it bring you joy and perhaps most importantly, hope.