There’s a John Lennon song that always stands out in my mind this time of year. Among the Christmas carols and some of my favorite religious music, the first stanza of Lennon’s “Happy Christmas” plays over and over in my mind.
It goes like this: “And so, this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun.” That’s about all the words my aging brain seems to recall, yet they have a powerful impact on me each time I hear it. It brings tears to my eyes and a smile as I begin to recall where life took me in the last 12 months.
This year has been a year of happiness, joy and sorrow, not just for our family but for friends and for those we see every day. We pass them in the store, or see them in the line at the bank, or sit behind them while we wait to fill the gas tank. We don’t know their stories. We don’t know where life took them this past year or what joys or sorrows they have seen. While the ups and downs are part of life, the words of Lennon’s music begs an answer for me, “And what have you done?”

That question is not about work accomplishments or achievements for me, nor monetary gains or accolades. It’s not about what I bought or didn’t buy, whether or not a new car was in the picture or a trip to an incredible vacation spot.

For me, it’s personal. It makes me ask myself what did I do for someone else. What did I do to make someone’s life better? It’s all too easy to get wrapped up into what we can buy and spend.

I am reminded all too often that there are those, even in our own community, who struggle. They may not know where their next meal is coming from, or if they have the money to pay the rent. Do they have enough gas in their car to make it to work one more time before they spend the last of their money until payday? Can they afford to push the heat up a bit when the cold winter winds begin to blow? Is there enough food in the house for Mom and the children to eat?

What would happen if we challenged ourselves and each other to look out for one another? We can’t be everywhere, but we can look at our families, and beyond to coworkers, neighbors and strangers. You may know someone from church you think needs a little TLC, or someone you see when you walk the park.

Kindness is a gift from the heart, and it’s not always about money. It’s about care and consideration for others, even those we don’t now. We don’t know where life has taken them, what happiness they may have or what sorrow.

This past year, I met a woman while I was sitting in a waiting room at a hospital in Johnson City. It had been a long day and night was creeping in. She came over, sat next to me and we talked. After spending a long night at the hospital, there she was again, early the next morning. She had come to check on me and my husband, just to see if she could do anything for us. I hope I will remember her goodness the rest of my days.

What if we treated everyone simply with kindness? What if we cleared the snow off our neighbor’s car while we were working on our own? What if we shoveled someone’s driveway, or brought their mail up to their house for them? What if we called our aging neighbor and offered to take them with us to the grocery store? What if we picked up a prescription for a friend on the way home?

What if we spoke kind words and held our tempers? What if we treated others with kindness and caring at all times? What if we put others before ourselves? What if we smiled at others without expecting anything in return?

“And so this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun.”