There is a first time for everything. Whether it’s attending a prom, a kiss, buying a home, or watching our children take their first steps, these rites of passage are forever imbedded into our memory.
Last winter, a few weeks before Christmas, I witnessed what appeared to be a toddler’s first experience with the simple phenomenon of Christmas lights. I was pretty low on holiday spirit and not looking forward to all the work that the preparation for the season would necessitate. Then just before sunset, I observed a neighbor man stringing Christmas lights with his little boy looking on.
The December darkness had begun to settle in, and there was no traffic on the deserted street. It was cold, but not the blustery kind of cold that produces snow or ice. Still, the toddler was bundled up against the elements, reminding me of decades ago when my now grown son was about his age.
The youthful father completed the task of wrapping the green strands of clear lights around the bushes in the family’s front yard. He headed into the nearby garage to switch on his handiwork. His about three-year-old son stood next to the shrubbery by the open garage not moving. When the twinkling white lights came on, his little chubby face lit up in amazement.
I happened to be walking by at the exact moment when the tiny boy’s uninhibited delight made me reassess my own lack of enthusiasm. It’s this gift that children give us of seeing the beauty and excitement in this world, because often adults take so much for granted. We get buried in the day-to-day struggle, the hectic pace, and the tedium produced by aging, forgetting that there is so much wonder constantly surrounding us.
First times can be memorable, but sadly often we don’t know when a last time will occur. I thought about this the other day when I saw the Facebook post, “Cherish every moment and every person in your life, because you never know when it will be the last time you see someone.”
Many of you reading this can relate to the trauma created by the unexpected loss of a loved one. Grief is tinged with horror and disbelief. We doubt if we will ever be able to breathe again without feeling a giant lump in our throat, and we silently argue about the unfairness of the circumstance.
Then regret can take over. We think of all the things we should have said or done, if we could have just had some preparation that someone who meant so much to us was about to be unpredictably ripped from this existence. Besides, even if a terminal illness prepares us, we are never ready to say, “Good-bye,” to those we love.
Sadly, some people get stuck in loss. Hopelessness and bitterness swallow them up. For most individuals though, in time — life goes on. Reluctantly, we learn to accept what we cannot alter, adjusting to a new normal. Yet everything changes in that instant.
Then the holidays arrive, and this blessed season can be a reminder of the precious people who are no longer here to celebrate it. Maybe in youth, one can blissfully ignore the chasm death and even geographical distance create. But as we grow older, we often become nostalgic for those who were once a vital part of our celebration, causing us to cling to traditions that are no longer useful.
Instead of getting stuck in what was, why not create something new? After all, there is another recent quote attributed to best-selling author, John C. Maxwell that asks, “When was the last time you did something for the first time? …Or are you still doing what you’ve always done?”
Whether it’s about creating a new Christmas tradition or reaching for a goal that we’ve had simmering on a back burner, Maxwell’s sage wisdom might be one key in moving forward.
Of course, human beings are usually terrified to take risks, because risk can result in failure. “Trying new things — and sometimes failing — is one of the best ways to grow,” counters the national leadership expert.
As we wind up the final month of 2016, may we all be more like the toddler who experienced the wonder of Christmas lights for the first time. There’s a whole world of firsts out there, regardless of our age. Let’s go fearlessly explore!
The writer is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.