It’s been a season of unexpected gifts. And that does not mean our Christmas tree was exactly bulging with wrapped presents. These gifts are those that nourish our hearts.
I thought about that as I cut up a fresh pear to top my usual granola and yogurt this morning. During this holiday season, I’ve been privileged to see — perhaps more clearly than ever — how everyday experiences can provide needed sustenance for our lives … if we are open to seeing them in that light.
The pear, for example, was from a box of assorted fruit that we bought from the Future Farmers of America students at our local high school. This was their fundraiser for activities that encourage our youth to pursue a vocation in the field of agriculture. Our community overwhelming responded, according to their instructor. And our local hospital bought several of these fruit boxes to give to employees and their families for Christmas. A nourishing win-win for us all.
A recent trip to my previous home town brought out old (sorry, gals) co-workers and friends who have supported me through many of life’s trials. And of course our reunion revolved around — what else? — a shared meal. Studies show that communal meals enjoyed with others benefit our mental health as well as our nutritional status.
Upon returning home from our travels, we attended a potluck gathering of kids and adults of all ages. While the kiddos chased each other around the large banquet room, parents and grandparents visited and set out the various dishes they had brought to share. I am always amazed how — when individuals come together — we end up with so much more.
OK, so I’m getting a little sappy. Yet this holiday season especially, I’m learning to make time for the most important things and let the others go.
For example, our traditional gingerbread house decorating party with grandkids didn’t exactly go as planned … and no one had a meltdown. The kit we had this year was full of gingerbread house parts that seemed to inconveniently break in the wrong places. And we soon discovered that the instructions and gingerbread pieces were too complicated for 5- and 7-year-olds. No matter. Frances and Logan were just as happy to decorate (and promptly eat) a sampling of gingerbread building materials before skipping into the living room to help decorate the tree.
We do have one tradition that we hope to continue every year … it’s that important. No matter what the weather, we have rarely missed candlelight service at our small church on Christmas Eve. Each year — in the midst of changing and sometimes challenging circumstances — I am once again reminded of the unexpected Gift that continues to bless our world. Merry Christmas.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to firstname.lastname@example.org.