The Best Holiday Gift

posted in: Speedy Delivery | 0

Once again, as in olden days, happy golden days of yore

Faithful friends who are dear to us will be near to us once more.

Someday soon we all will be together if the fates allow

Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.

So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
Many people don’t know the original words to the cherished holiday carol, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  In modern times, we sing, “Hang a shining star upon the highest bow” for that second to last line and we feel uplifted. But in 1944, the original melancholy tone was fitting for the scene in which it appeared in the movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis.” As Judy Garland’s Esther poured her heart out to little sister Tootie, she also became the most real version of her character, one able to express her true emotions without covering them up simply because it wasn’t appropriate in polite society to do so. Interestingly enough, Judy initially refused to sing it as written, thinking it was too sad – and although it didn’t change in the movie, a few years later, Frank Sinatra insisted on the rewrite for his album, “A Jolly Christmas.”

So why am I telling you all this? I promise I’m not trying to bring you down. Rather, I am offering the kindness of awareness and authenticity at a time of year when we are “supposed to be” happy.

Just take a look at social media – go ahead, scroll a bit, I’ll wait.

Now that you’re back, what did you see? Especially this time of year, the majority of posts seem to be happy families, pets, parties, holiday events, and such. But, as we know (but may sometimes need a reminder), not everything is as it appears to be. Many are struggling, with illness, emotional trauma, family situations that are not quite the Norman Rockwell painting (or a Frank Sinatra song). Some are dealing with loss. Or food insecurity. Or depression and anxiety, likely exacerbated by some of the things previously listed. The point is, you can’t tell from social media. And sometimes not even from the way a person acts.  

The Greatest Gift

When you start to see things differently, you do things differently too. A favorite, but far less frequently repeated, Fred Rogers quote of mine is “All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors—in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”

What he is saying here is that, through connection and kindness, we can give the most important gift of the holiday season. The gift to listen to one another with intentionality and empathy…and without making any assumptions based simply on what we see. The gift to offer help in the way that is most needed by the individual. The gift of love. And the beauty of this gift is that, since we don’t always know who needs it the most, we can give freely to everyone: coworkers, team members, friends, family members, or, really, anyone in our community, social and professional circles.

It All Comes Back to Love

The first article I wrote for the “Speedy Delivery” series, back in February, was all about love – not the Hallmark Valentine’s Day kind (or perhaps more seasonally suitable, the Hallmark Movie kind) – but the real power in finding joy when we feel down, alone, or stressed by focusing on what we truly love. (And, yes, it was chock full of musical references – I’m sure this shocks no one who knows me). Today I feel it coming full circle.

When we are focusing on what we love most, we become inspired, as managers and leaders, as parents, as friends. And when we are inspired, we are much more likely to visibly demonstrate this love and act with intent.

I want to take a quick walk back with you through our journey this past year and pose some questions for you to consider as we close out 2022.

  • In January, we learned to connect resolutions to our values and use connection to keep them on track. How do the choices that you make lead to stronger connections between you and your family, friends, and colleagues?
  • In February, we explored the power of love from a new perspective. How can you leverage what you love to create joy for yourself and others?
  • In March, we looked at the power of PAUSE: Principles, Assumptions, Understanding, Space, and Emotions. How can you use this tool to build deeper connections and accomplish more meaningful work?
  • In April, we made small shifts to better integrate play into our personal and professional lives. What type of play works for you and how can it be cultivated in a way that makes sense for your life and work?
  • In May, we faced our fears through connection, revealing the ways in which connection builds support, enables self-reflection, and facilitates vulnerability. When have you been in a place of discomfort where incorporating connection has helped overcome your fear and anxiety?
  • In June, we looked for the helpers in difficult times and learned how to foster a community of helpers, which can ameliorate challenges within your organization or externally that are impacting the well-being of employees and leaders alike. Where can you find helpers in your organization? And how can you empower yourself to be one?
  • In July, we explored wonder and curiosity. We talked about how to dream big and develop a growth mindset in your personal and professional lives and to help your teams do the same. How do you find ways to embrace wonder at work and welcome it so your colleagues feel comfortable enough to welcome it too?
  • In August, we visited the upside-down world of summer, wherein our priorities often flip-flop, and learned how to label and name the often contradictory emotions we feel. We once again applied intentionality to making the necessary shifts in our lives and asked, what can you do to be intentional and give yourself and your teams a fresh start in the fall?
  • In September, we reminded ourselves of the importance of kindness in our busy lives and looked at ways to focus on focusing, on others, and on sharing, and making kindness your choice. How can you reorganize your to-do list and single task rather than attempt to multitask? How can you build time into your workday to connect with others?
  • In October, we looked to the falling leaves for a lesson on letting go and liking ourselves “just the way (we) are,” and we equated this – just as we are doing today – to a kindness that we need to give to ourselves. What do you need to let go of to not only survive but thrive?
  • And, finally, in November, we highlighted our favorite holiday: World Kindness Day. We explored ways of creating random acts of kindness in multiple contexts and shared five ways to add more kindness to your colleagues’ day. How have you incorporated kindness into your daily practice at work? at home? in our world at large?

Are you sensing some themes here? Our mission this year has been to discover the ways in which kindness influences our lives and our leadership. We know that kindness is, in fact, everywhere and you just need to know where to look – with intention. 

What’s Next?

Now that we have laid the foundation, we have also determined that this will be our last monthly article. But do not fear – this is not the end of our articles completely! We will just no longer be posting them on a monthly basis or distributing the links via email. Our journey will continue on our website at – please bookmark the page! We will also share links on social media, so be sure to follow Alison on LinkedIn and Facebook and Stephanie on LinkedIn

And if you’d like to catch us in person (ok, well, live over Zoom), we are offering a free workshop on Thursday, January 12, 2023, 12 pm ET, on Building Connection into Your Organization.  As of today, several spots remain available – you can register here to receive the link.

In the meantime, Stephanie and I thank you for all your wonderful engagement and thoughtful responses this year and, quite simply, for reading these articles and just being you! We most certainly like you just the way you are.

Have a wonderful holiday season filled with kindness, and may 2023 bring you much joy.

Alison French is the Managing Director of Alto Solutions, LLC. Her work as a facilitator, trainer, coach, and consultant focuses on using kindness, connection, and brain science to bring people and ideas together for learning and success.

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