In spite of the joy and cheer we talk about this time of year, for many people, the holidays are characterized by tension, resentment, and conflict. And this year, the likelihood of having your celebrations spoiled by awkwardness and arguments may seem even greater than usual. As a tumultuous 2021 draws to a close, it’s natural to wonder: Is “peace on earth” out of reach?
It doesn’t have to be, says Elaine Parke. This December, she wants all Americans to refocus our attention away from negativity and worrying about merchandise supply chains. Instead, she suggests we celebrate the gifts we don’t need to buy—the gifts of family, friends, and community.
“No matter how big our differences, we have much more in common than not—as a nation and as individuals,” says Parke, author of The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…one citizen at a time . “When we choose to focus on the things that connect us, bless us, and bring us joy, we’ll be on the path to healing our divided nation and the rifts that strain our relationships.”
Parke doesn’t mean we all have to agree on everything. She does want us to begin treating others with more respect and compassion. When enough people start to celebrate and uplift each other, America will experience a sea change away from contention and toward connection.
December, with its cultural emphasis on helping others and gathering with loved ones, is the perfect time to celebrate our relationships, community ties, and roles as Americans—but Parke urges you not to stop there. The Habits of Unity is structured around her scalable outcome-proven, color-coded, 12-month model for instilling “good citizenship” habits in readers (and improving their mental health in the process). Note December’s theme:
January: Help Others
February: You Count
March: Resolve Conflicts
April: Take Care of Our Environment
May: Be Grateful
June: Reach Higher
July: Become Involved
August: Know Who You Are
September: Do Your Best
October: Be Patient and Listen
November: Show a Positive Attitude
December: Celebrate Community, Family and Friends
“The idea is to get everyone focused on the same branded behavior each month,” says Parke. “The plan is easy to put into practice. It feels good, so people want to keep doing it.” As you focus on celebrating community, family, and friends in December, consider the following tips excerpted from the book’s 365 days of “one-magic-minute-a-day” motivationals:
Examine the energy you’re sharing. Are you a Bob Cratchit or a Scrooge? How are your family, friends, and coworkers affected by your attitude and behavior? Positive energy not only uplifts others; it improves your own outlook too.
Prioritize respect in your interactions. It’s the essence of the Golden Rule. Too often, the other person’s dignity and worth are buried in outbursts of anger and blame. When criticism is necessary, always balance it with praise.
Share your presence, not just presents. In addition to a shopping list, write out the people and places you want to visit this holiday season: family, friends, a senior home, soup kitchen, etc.
Try to see everyone as someone’s family. Every person you encounter—at work, school, the grocery store, etc.—is someone’s friend or family member. Try to treat them with the respect and consideration you give your own loved ones.
Weed your character garden. We all have “weeds”: a short temper, impatience, self-absorption, difficulty listening, etc. Choose one fault and start hacking away at it. (Then plant the seeds of consideration and compassion in the space you’ve cleared!)
Remember, ’tis the season for giving! When we help others, healthy things happen to them and us. We are renewed in love and connected in community. Participate with “friends to be” at a local food bank or community outreach.
“Especially after the tumult and stress of the past year, we are all hungry for connection, kindness, and the knowledge that we are valued and loved,” says Parke. “When we commit to celebrating others, there’s a profound ripple effect. My hope is that in 2022, we all will begin to feel more uplifted, united, and, yes, at peace.”
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About the Author: Elaine Parke, MBA, CS, CM, NSA, is the author of The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…one citizen at a time. Parke spent 25 years fine-tuning her mass-market media skills in corporate America. Then, in 1987, she redirected her focus to helping people get along better. Her first book, Join the Golden Rule Revolution: Practice One Habit…Each Month of the Year, was published in 2000. She has won many awards and recognitions for her work. To learn more, please visit www.12habits4allofus.org.