It is the holiday season and  my story this week takes me to the grocery store. I was picking up a few things for Sunday dinner and the store was jam packed with people gathering their Thanksgiving items. I mean you could not round a corner without running into someone’s cart. I was in a cart traffic jam at one point. Four carts, all headed in different directions, all of us just trying to figure out how we could get by, looking at one another to see who would move first.
 
Most of the time everyone was very kind and gracious about sharing the aisle space. There was one gentleman, however, I nearly ran into when rounding a corner. I joked with a laugh, “Nothing like a traffic jam in the grocery store.” He just looked at me stone faced and kept going. I guess he didn’t get my joke or maybe he had just had it at that point.
 
When we gather with our families over the holidays, we have a vision of how things are going to go. It will be great, so much fun! Then we arrive and realize that reality is much different than our imagination. The same people who got under our skin last year, are getting under our skin this year. We find ourselves looking forward to going home or having everyone leave.  The holiday doesn’t seem as enjoyable as we imagined it to be.
In addition, during the holiday season, when we are all overwhelmed with the additional responsibilities and long lists of things to be done, it is easy to get offended by others. It is easy to take out our stress on those around us – especially strangers on the road or in the stores. We can also say things we don’t mean to people we love when our stress meets their irritating way of being.  The stress shows on everyone’s faces – I could see it in the store check out lines today.  I was thinking that it should be a joyous time but instead people are overcome with exhaustion and feeling stretched to thin. 
 
What if we could change our experience by changing our perspective? What if we could choose to be happy and nonplussed by all that we have to do? How can we do that?
It is possible to act differently. We all make the decision as to how we want to show up each and every day. We all make choices.
 
So I made a decision at the grocery store.  I decided this holiday season, that I am not going to allow myself to get offended when I am in line having waited for half an hour and the check out person is having a fifteen minute conversation with the person in front of me. I am not going to get angry when the man in the really big truck steals my parking space that I was just going to pull into.  I am not going to get offended by the gentleman who did not get my joke or feel the need to respond. I may feel overwhelmed by all I have to do but I am not going to take it out on others.
I am going to choose to remember that the person who is holding me up, stealing my parking space, and requiring more of me than I want to give at that moment, may be stressed themselves. I am going to remember that I don’t know their life circumstances and I need to forgo judgement.  I am going to help others out instead of allowing my blood pressure to rise when faced with something else I need to do.
I am going to remember that I cannot control the things that happen around me but I can control how I react to them.
I want to keep my peace this season and bring joy to those I touch. I am going to prevent stress by doing as much shopping as I can from the internet which is not stressful for me compared to fighting crowds and traffic. I am going to avoid rushing around when possible. I am going to choose thoughtfulness. And I am going to do the things for myself and others that bring joy during this season.
I am choosing joy over stress.
 
We don’t have to look far to see the suffering in the world. Everyday we see people who may think the holidays are not a joyous time because their loved ones are not around any longer or their family is apart. They may not have a family for a variety of reasons. Someone they love may be dying. Someone they love may have died. These circumstances are a part of the lives of all of those people we run up against each day. We have the opportunity to make a difference and bring light and hope.
 
This time of year is a time that we personally can choose to bring a sense of joy and happiness to others by being patient and kind. We can choose to be forgiving and loving towards others. We can be the person we wish others were during our most difficult times.
So I am challenging all of you to do the same. Choose who you want to be during the season. Choose to be that person who says, “Please you first” or “Can I help you with that?”. Share a laugh with fellow shoppers when you are three aisles deep in line at Costco instead of reading emails on your phone. Take a moment to connect, smile and lift a spirit.
 
Be joy and peace this holiday season.

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