By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Being alone is a challenge for many people. This challenge
may loom especially large during the holidays if you are
single or newly divorced and without family around you.
Holidays are a time to share love, and many people end up
feeling depressed when they do not have people around with
whom to share love. If you are in this situation, what can
you do to make the holidays joyous rather than depressing?
The key phrase here is SHARE LOVE. Too often people think in
terms of getting love rather than giving and sharing their
love. They don't realize that it is the act of giving their
love that is so very fulfilling.
Gail had grown up very lonely in an emotionally distant
family, with parents who did not freely give their love and
relatives who were also cold and distant. She had married an
emotionally distant man, and after 7 years of more
loneliness, had decided to leave him. This was her first
holiday season alone.
Gail decided that she was not going to be alone and lonely
again this holiday season. She did some research on service
agencies that needed volunteers and discovered a women's
shelter in her area for women and their children who were
hiding from physically abusive husbands. The shelter was
badly in need of funds for food, which Gail didn't have.
What she did have was the time to help gather food. Each
day, after her job as a secretary, Gail went around to the
markets in her area until she found some willing to donate
Thanksgiving dinners for the mothers and their children.
Then, on Thanksgiving Day, she spent her time at the shelter
cooking, decorating, serving, and having Thanksgiving dinner
with these brave women who had left their abusive husbands
to save themselves and their children. It was the best
Thanksgiving she ever had! By choosing to share her love
with people who needed her, she felt filled with love.
Gail had such a fulfilling experience that she found a small
part-time job in addition to her regular job so that she
could afford to buy presents for the children at the shelter
for Christmas. She had such fun buying presents for the
children and watching their joyous little faces as they
opened them on Christmas day! Gail felt anything but alone
Gary was in a similar situation to Gail. He was single, had
been an only child to parents who were no longer alive, and
had no close relatives. His janitorial business did not give
him much opportunity to make friends. Gary had spent many
lonely holidays feeling isolated and depressed, and decided
a few years ago to do something about it.
Gary loved animals. As a child, his dog had been his main
connection with love. After some research, Gary discovered
that there was a wonderful animal shelter within a half-hour
of his home – a shelter that loved and cared for animals and
didn't euthanize them. Gary started to volunteer one day a
week on the weekends – cleaning, feeding, playing with
puppies and kittens, helping to interview people who wanted
to adopt a pet, and getting to know the other volunteers. He
found that he really connected with the people who
volunteered there. Many of them were loving people who were
deeply devoted to caring for animals. As his friendships
developed, he found he had a new sense of family centered
around the shelter. Thanksgiving and Christmas were now
sometimes spent with the other volunteers who did not have
families, and sometimes with the families of some of the
volunteers. Gary's life had become full and fulfilling. The
last I heard, he was dating a woman who also volunteered at
the animal shelter.
No matter what your life situation is, you can always share
your love with others. Instead of feeling alone and lonely
this holiday season, open your heart to giving. There are
many people and animals out there who would welcome your