You’ve bought gifts for everyone in your family, including hard-to-buy-for Uncle Harry who only likes expensive Scotch and Cuban cigars. You’ve purchased 100 gift cards for your children’s teachers, aides, bus drivers, the custodian at the school who was assigned to you for Secret Santa, the mailman, the garbage man, and the lady at the library who looked the other way when your kid discovered that checked out book under his bed 10 months after it was due. You have back-to-back hair and nail appointments, you have your new Christmas outfit (and those of your immediate family members) ready and ironed, and the dog has a new festive plaid collar to match. The gifts from Santa are strategically hidden and you’re finalizing your grocery shopping list so that you can begin to prepare the huge meal you’ll be serving to 18 of your closest friends and family in just a few days. You haven’t slept because all of these details begin to ferociously swim around your brain the second you hit the pillow, and you’re basically a walking zombie. Stress doesn’t even begin to explain how you’re feeling, and you’re ready to snap at the first person who so much as jingles a jingle bell in your direction.
But believe it or not, there are people who are probably a tiny bit more stressed than you are right now. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Over the course of the next handful of days of celebrations and gatherings, take a minute to breathe. Take a moment to look around at your surroundings and at all of the other people who are at their wit’s end as well. Now, in the midst of the craziest time of the year, is your opportunity to create the holiday spirit. No, we’re not talking about hanging another wreath or playing the Christmas music radio station on the way home from work. Instead, after all of the giving and doing that are already occupying your time, take a sec to give just a bit more.
4. The Amazon and UPS delivery person
Think about how many packages you normally order, and then think about how many more packages you’ve ordered (and sent) over the last few weeks. It’s probably staggering. And amazingly, they all arrive on time (most of them anyway). What’s more, they often arrive within two days of when you realized you forgot something and ordered it on your phone. That’s on par with Santa’s skills and should not go unnoticed. Imagine driving around from one neighborhood to another with an enormous truck full of boxes of books, watches, soap, crayons, Instant Pots, and the potential to make thousands of people angry if the packages don’t get to where they’re going in a timely manner. That’s stress.
3. Your kids’ teachers
These poor people normally have to put up with 25 bundles of energy and hormones, but this week they have to tack on all those extra craft projects (Santa made of paper plates and cotton balls, anyone?) and holiday performances so you can see your kid play Mrs. Claus in the big school production. Plus these kids are probably out of their minds because they know winter break is approaching, and they’re eating tubs of sugar in the form of homemade cookies every night. On top of it all, these teachers have to do all of this with a smile on their face.
2. The checkout person at [insert big box or grocery store name here]
Similar to the increase in volume that delivery people have to endure at this time of year, checkout people need to interact with every single stressed out person who is shopping for something. They have to listen when we complain about items being out of stock, or standing in line for too long, or mismatched prices. When it comes to wages, checkout people are wildly underpaid for the amount of drama they have to deal with every time they swipe an item for you. They need all the positivity they can get from us.
1. The elf on the Santa line organizing all the kids and parents
Seeing Santa is the moment that everyone is excited about, and is inevitably the moment when children choose to have epic meltdowns. But who can blame them? They have to stand in line forever in a hot mall in uncomfortable clothes, all to sit on some stranger’s lap. Now imagine the people who are dressed as elves (or similar Santa’s helpers) having to manage the angry and/or determined parents and their tantrum-y children. They have to be calm, kind (and downright merry, actually), and somehow create order where only chaos wants to ensue.
So now what?
When that checkout lady hands you the receipt, smile no matter how long you waited in line. Ask her how she’s doing with all the mobs of people. Wish her a Happy New Year. When you’re annoyed because you can’t park in a spot that is blocked by two shopping carts, take 45 seconds and take them back to the shopping cart rack. No, you weren’t the one to leave them in the spot in the first place, but putting them where they belong will absolutely help other people out. When you’re at the drive-thru coffee line, buy the person behind you a cup. Just because. This is what the holiday spirit is about. And no matter how stressed you are, just remember that there are people worse off than you. A simple gesture will go a long way and make a big difference in someone’s day. And it might even make you feel good as well.