By Christine Baker
Clinton, CT, USA
As I look up at the sky and watch the first wet and uncertain snowflakes of winter spin downward, I realize it's no longer about accumulation. And no, I'm not talking about the Polar Vortex. Instead, it's about hanging onto what I have. Not hang onto as in cleave to, squeeze or clutch. Rather, hang onto as in cherish, embrace, be true to.
When we are young, we think life is about getting things. Those things can come in the form of an education, a job, a car, a mate, a house, friends who would be on your official Hangover crew, that $2,500 bag you've been eying, or the newest and biggest iPhone known to mankind. Accumulation is the name of the game. Sure, those things aren't just things, and many are certainly valuable and important, but we are slowly amassing nonetheless. Everything from funds in a 401(k) to shoes, old well-worn sweatshirts, pictures on our walls, memories in our minds and so on are all corralled and stored, rounded up and saved.
And through all of the rushing and grabbing and getting, we as Americans are supposed to take one day to say "thank you." One day, while at the same time rushing through Thanksgiving dinner so we can hit the stores for the unbelievable sales and specials for all the who-dingits and thing-boppits imaginable.
Here's an idea – and no, I'm not going to lecture you on being thankful every day (although that would be nice, should you wish to try it) – what if you stopped getting, grabbing, collecting, heaping, amassing and stacking and you simply started cherishing instead?
I know, this all sounds vaguely like a Dr. Seuss story or a poem by Shel Silverstein, but bear with me. What if you actually looked at your life from the perspective of all that you should cherish rather than all you should hope to gain?
I cherish the beautiful relationships with my best friends that have been cultivated over many (oh so many) years. I cherish my parents and simple times we spend together doing nothing special. I value the pets in my life because they remind me to see each day in the present moment. I appreciate my education and love for words and books and knowledge, and I am forever thankful that I am the type of person who is curious and strives each day to better myself. I welcome people and experiences into my life that enrich it in ways that a new and shiny watch or tech device never will do for me.
Now you. What do you cherish? What or whom are you true to? Think about it. Now think some more. Stop running yourself ragged accumulating more stuff your loved ones never wanted, or will soon forget about. Whether it's birthdays or holidays, giving gifts isn't about the actual things. It's the knowledge that someone cares for you enough to give you something.
Think about that for a second. It's not about the things under the tree or wrapped up for that special occasion. It's about the people who are giving them to you. None of us will remember what our loved ones buy us, but we will remember the stories told around the holiday table. We will hear the laughter in our minds even when the table is empty and everyone is gone. Some of us are missing loved ones during the holidays and special occasions and would give a limb and every single solitary object for five minutes with those loved ones again.
I recently learned of a family suffering through some very hard times. Amanda Bernier and her husband Chris received the worst news imaginable shortly after the best news they could hope for. On one hand the Connecticut EMT and firefighter found out they were pregnant with their first child. One the other, the pregnancy caused a recessive ALS virus to become active in Amanda's body. While the couple gave birth to their daughter Arabella Grace on November 4, 2014, Amanda's health is deteriorating. She can no longer walk or talk, and she might never do either ever again. Do you honestly think Amanda, Chris and their loved ones care about actual presents or material items? I don't think so.
For them, I will begin hiking the Appalachian Trail again in March. Amanda might never walk again, but I can do so in her honor. Funds we raise and donations we receive will go directly to the family as they struggle to pay mounting medical bills and home healthcare costs.
Amassing stuff won't give you everlasting pleasure. Amassing memories and moments shared will. It's a simple proposition – stop thinking about what to have and start thinking about what to hold onto. You'll be amazed how that simple switch in your thinking will make for a very different approach to life and ensure that every day is cherished.