Some invaluable lessons (from some unlikely sources)

It’s that time of year when the holidays are upon us in full force. With the celebrations of Hanukkah starting last week and the arrival of Christmas and Kwanzaa in a bit under two weeks, the season is in full swing. It’s during this time of the year when many people find themselves taking moments to reflect on the year and what they found important, meaningful, challenging or inspiring. Certain experiences, teachings and life lessons are frequently pondered during the holiday season as people recount what they’re grateful for, things they’d like to learn, and notions they are still trying to grapple with. It’s funny to admit but during this time of year especially there are some very invaluable lessons that can be considered and reflected upon from influences around us. Granted most of these influences may be in the form of animated figures and storytellers, but their lessons are still valid and appreciated as guideposts of direction and conscience.

Take for example the beloved, though mostly outcast, Charlie Brown Peanuts character. Even though his actions of choosing an at first glance unattractive looking Christmas tree to use as a prop for his friend’s Christmas play were ridiculed and contested, in the end it gave way to a most memorable and impactful speech explaining the true meaning of the holiday and what ‘Christmas is all about.’

Lesson: It’s the meaning of the season and why it’s celebrated that matters most, not material items or commercialism.

Another recognizable figure during this time is Dr. Seuss’ the Grinch character. Now he had the most learning to do of all – with his heart two sizes too small. Again he thought the season was just about material possessions and how much the Who’s had. It angered him to see how they reveled in the holiday celebration and thought that by taking away their belongings this would dampen their spirit. But the Who’s blatant joy and celebration despite their loss taught the Grinch more, of course, that ‘perhaps Christmas doesn’t come from a store.’

Lesson: The holidays are a time for appreciating who and what you have in your life that brings you happiness and realizing what you’re grateful for, and being together, even perhaps singing a little ‘Fahoo-dores.’  

And lastly, perhaps one of the most influential, historical characters during this time of year? Why yes, it’s Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge himself, the feisty curmudgeon who could really suck the spirit out of the holiday season – if you let him. Scrooge’s memorable and extraordinary tale of being visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve really captures multiple lessons of the season. By redeeming himself and changing his ways by the end of the tale, which we can only hope continued even after the story ended, he was able to ‘keep the spirit of Christmas close to his heart’ and celebrate all year through.

Lessons: Think and consider those who are less fortunate than you, and when able, spread prosperity (in any form) to others. Think about your actions – they can affect others too, not just yourself. Gratitude and appreciation can go a long way. Keep the meaning and spirit of the holidays close to you always.

Now not everyone may recognize or know these characters mentioned above, but the message remains the same. No matter what time of year, you deserve to think about what’s important to you, what you enjoy, and how these things influence your day to day. Values and lessons are important to consider—not only during the holiday season, but the whole year through.

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All I Really Need to Know I Learned In…..

So this week marked the time for many students across the country to head back into the classroom to begin a new school year. School supplies being emptied on store shelves, heavier morning traffic caused by school zones and bus stops, and the sun rising a little differently in the mornings all represent this significant time of year. It makes me think of the book by Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

The book highlights some very important and notable lessons we need throughout life that were actually taught to us in our earliest phase of education. It may not have seemed like it at the time, as we were having snack, playing with classmates and enjoying circle time, but values were being engrained in us that we would use for years to come. Remembering to share, to say you’re sorry if you hurt someone, and to be aware of the world around us were just some of the imperative teachings we learned amidst play time. It got me thinking though, what other times throughout life are we taught these and other significant lessons? The answer: every day.

It’s true. We learn important life lessons every day, for those younger and older, in school or not, there are constant teachings around us every day that continue to instill life’s lessons and morals in us. We hear about other people’s experiences and we look at them as examples, to model or not. We see good and bad and find our place in where we wish to be amidst the chaos. We strive to continue learning and to be vulnerable to new experiences and feelings. We try to remind ourselves of who we are and what we learned years ago and how it can still have meaning now.

People show interest in the world around them every day, even if it’s just by watching the news—again, to be aware of what’s out there and what’s bigger and different. So while many of life’s important lessons were learned as tots on those first days in the classroom, life itself continues to be the classroom; with continuous trainings and encouragement all around.

What lessons have you continued to learn about or have tried to teach others?

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