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Common sense, kindness can save the holidays


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POSTED: Thursday, November 27, 2008

For many Americans, Thanksgiving represents a lighthearted time when family members can take a break from busy schedules, come together and enjoy a time of good food and good fun with fellow family members.

For others, this time of year represents one of the most stressful times of year, either from dealing with a loss of a loved one, divorce or the discomfort of being thrust into collision with family members who ordinarily are not seen or heard from during most of the year.

Today, there are a few things that we can all do to make the holiday experience more comfortable for our family and friends, as well as make it a special time of year:

» Remember to have realistic expectations for yourself and others. Not everyone can cook as well as one's mother used to, not everyone can afford to purchase and present extravagant meals for Thanksgiving and not everyone who we invite is able to attend our parties.

People who have unrealistic expectations or demands for the holidays, which revolve around the "it's my way or the highway" attitude, are setting themselves up for disappointment, arguments or unnecessary worry and stress.

» Remember to let people be themselves and focus on what's achievable and doable. Put a little "mahalo" in your Thanksgiving. The whole point of Thanksgiving and any holiday, for that matter, is to spend quality time together and to show friends and family members that you are appreciative and thankful for them.

The mistake that many people make is that they use the holidays as an occasion to ambush others into uncomfortable dialogues and to "have it out" with people.

The best thing to do is to show some mahalo by maximizing the good and positive things about one another and intentionally choosing to overlook the bad.

» Go someplace where you know you will have fun. The routine and tradition of Thanksgiving can be extremely distressing for individuals who have lost spouses or children. If engaging in the normal Thanksgiving routine stirs up too many memories or causes sentimentality that just won't let you take off the black armband, try something nontraditional or different altogether.

» When in doubt, don't. If you know you're going to be in a situation where you'll be forced to see or speak with people who easily agitate you or whom you know you can't control your emotions around, it's sometimes best just to stay away.

Don't allow peer pressure to dominate or ruin your holiday experience: if you can't be with people, don't go. It's better to avoid argument and strife altogether than to expose yourself to abuse just for the sake of saying you got together for the holidays.

» Think of others before yourself. Don't forget that doing good to others is the best way to take attention off ourselves and to feel a sense of accomplishment and connection to one another.

Call up a casual acquaintance and tell them "Happy Thanksgiving" and wish them a good time, they'll certainly appreciate it.

Show some aloha spirit!

 

Daniel de Gracia II is an ordained minister and holds a master's degree in political science from Southwest Texas State University. He lives in Waipahu.