“If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.”

— Emily Dickinson

Have you finished your Christmas shopping?  When we drove past the mall this weekend, it looked as though every spot in the parking lot was occupied.  As one who loves people but abhors crowds, the sight made me grateful to be passing by quickly on the highway instead of venturing into the swarm of shoppers.  I always feel vaguely isolated at this season of the year, simply because I find it hard to get excited about planning trips to the meccas that collect my peers.  “What do you mean, you hate to shop?”  I sit on the outside and look through the windows of such scenes.  Although I avoid them on purpose, I still feel a little bit awkward and a little bit alone.  Maybe this is the reason why my shopping list is a less traditional one.  The gifts I plan for Christmas are not for sale at the mall.  Their absence is costly, their price-tag is free, and giving them is priceless.

Perhaps it is the vague sense of sadness at not enjoying all the hubbub of the holidays that makes me aware that these days of preparation and celebration can leave a whole bunch of people feeling isolated and disenfranchised.  When the mall trips are done and the bright wrappings have encircled the last item on your shopping list, will you take a bit of time to write another list? Will you take out your invisible tape and mend a heart or two that are in danger of falling to pieces at this happy season?

“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?”

Write your next list in increments of time.  It takes only a matter of minutes to deliver a plateful of cookies or a home-cooked dinner to someone who faces the holidays alone.  It takes only seconds to pick up the phone and call someone whose holiday happiness lives only in memories of people who have been lost to them.  It takes only a small amount of your precious time to begin a new tradition that brings joy back into the present for someone who thinks it has gone forever.

It takes only a small amount of time and a heart filled to overflowing with love and compassion.  If you want some meaning in your life this Christmas, then find it by bringing joy to a heart at risk of breaking.  Gifts will come and go, be worn out and consumed.  Give a lasting gift of time this year.  Priceless.