“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” — Bob Hope
Christmas is a time of giving the type of gifts our friends and loved ones will enjoy. It’s a tradition that warms both the hearts of one who gives, as well as the one who receives. As Christmas arrives this coming week I recall a moment in time that forever shaped my view of holiday giving.
When I was a teenager my beloved Mom would host Christmas parties at our apartment, where she would invite her close friends, family members—even my Father’s (her ex-husband’s) family. They conveniently resided upstairs and my aunts and uncles and had a great relationship with her. Each Christmas was always filled with an array of scrumptious Filipino food and upbeat holiday music.
While the food and music were undoubtedly memorable, the conversation wasn’t.
Being that neither my brother Eric or I understood the Filipino or Spanish languages, we found it difficult to communicate with the guests. My Mom would be conversing with her friends and relatives in Tagalog, the main Filipino dialect in the Philippines and also what was spoken by my stepfather. She would then turn to my aunts and uncles on my Dad’s side to speak with them in Spanish. Mom learned the language during her first marriage to my Dad.
Throughout the years of holiday get togethers the thought of not being able to communicate with my Mom and Dad’s families was slowly starting to infuriate me. Not only was I frustrated that I was unable to understand what any of them were saying, but I actually believed that their conversations involved what was going on in my life—my braces, my sudden weight gain, all that I dreaded knowing about myself. Aaah, the teenage years…lest we forget the torment.
One Christmas Eve, after another fun-filled holiday party I approached my Mom in the kitchen. She was placing leftover Filipino spring rolls into a small container when I walked in and angrily blurted out her name. I was clearly annoyed and eager to confront her about her blatant disregard for my feelings.
“Mom, why is that when you have these holiday parties you never ever speak English? You know Eric and I don’t understand Tagalog or Spanish and no one wants to speak to us in English. It’s just plain rude.”
She slammed the container on the countertop. “Michelle, why are you being so sensitive about this? It’s not like anyone is talking about you, so what are you worried about?” As someone who at times was quick to react, my Mom kept calm for the most part and began to wrap up the leftovers.
“It’s not that, it’s just…I feel left out. The only person I can talk to at these parties is Eric, and all he does is play video games. I’ve also begged you to teach me at least a few words, just to get by with a simple conversation, and nothing.”
My Mom stood there in silence, which usually meant she would stomp out of the room at any moment.
Instead, she unwrapped some leftover fish and rice, put it on a plate and motioned me into the dining room.
I slowly walked to the dining room table and my Mom gently placed the food in front of me. I was tired and grouchy, but yet I was still in need of an explanation. “I’m not hungry. And you didn’t answer my question.”
She took a seat next to me and placed her hand on mine. “Ok, ok, you’re right. It is rude that I do that. But you must understand that not everyone knows the English language like you do, and maybe they feel more comfortable speaking the language they know. You understand, don’t you?”
“I guess,” I replied, rolling my eyes.
“Michelle, Christmas is about giving, but it is also about forgiving; letting go of the bad feelings we have for one another. Like a clean slate.”
After gobbling up my food I thanked my Mom for the talk and went to bed. I was still too young and self-absorbed to take her advice. And as the years passed the holiday parties became less frequent, but her wise words were kept dear to my heart, into my adulthood. In fact, not a Christmas goes by without me thinking of our conversation, and finding true forgiveness of others, and oneself.
“Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.” ~ Janice Maeditere
Whether or not you celebrate the Christmas holiday, give yourself the best gift of all…Forgive those with whom you still hold a grudge. Above all, take time for you, and forgive yourself.
It’s your turn. Have you found forgiveness with those who have hurt you? Has the act of giving lightened your spirit? I’d love if you shared your comments below.
About Michelle Cruz Rosado
Michelle Cruz Rosado is a professional speaker and bestselling co-author of "Pursuing Your Destiny: How to Overcome Adversity and Achieve Your Dreams." Follow Michelle for inspiring messages and quotes.