As we get older, we may struggle to find the Christmas spirit. The holidays are difficult for many of us. We focus on the memories but live in the lack, remembering how it used to be. Families made more time for each other, Santa was exciting, and presents gave us joy. But now we may spend too much money while chasing down the old feelings of happier holidays. I have experienced many emotions in December from lonliness, sadness, frenzied, stressed, and exhausted. I craved the real experiences that left me with true happiness in my heart. January often came with regret and somewhat of a let down.
This year is much different! I knew that giving was the key to fulfilling happiness but we don't need to spend a mountain of money to get it. Yes, it's fun to pick out a great gift for a special person that is meaningful, but to give of our time is precious. I have been volunteering at a county shelter the last few years and now at a sanctuary that is home to formerly abused, neglected, and rescued farm animals and cats. Much of the work is not glamorous and is dirty but the reward is grand.
I walk dogs and that involves picking up after them. I help socialize cats which can be tricky and I can get scratched. Kennels are loud and litter boxes need to be cleaned. When the work is done, we pet, we play, and we love.
I help separate grocery store produce donations. In low temperatures on the mountain of the sanctuary, I carefully remove all plastic wrap, labels, and rubber bands and divide into groups by animal. Chickens can't have potatoes, onions, mushrooms or anything smaller than a golf ball. Let's not give them fruit either so they don't get too heavy. My hands freeze pulling apart romaine in the winter wind. Boxes are heavy. I sweep hay out of a barn while carefully pushing the broom around cats and a random peacock. Roosters crow in the distance as a goat escapes his enclosure and we have to carry him back to safety. But when the work is done, I spend time with each one that I can. They come to the fence to say hello, cats try to climb my jeans, and geese loudly announce my presence. A goat tries to kiss me through the wire fencing. And I spend a few minutes in reiki with them. A still silence when I give them all my attention. Their basic needs are met by the staff and caregivers and they also love them to pieces as well, but I get to sit in compassion and an open heart with them, expecting nothing in return but receiving so much. They give me joy.
If your heart misses the spirit, the joy, the giving or the happiness, try volunteering your time with animals who are so grateful to people who have given them a second chance. You can easily be the first person to show one love if they were meant to be food. You can easily be the first human they trust if they suffered abuse or neglect. You can't imagine what it feels like to gain the trust of a once traumatized animal who has learned to love again. I want you to feel that joy too.
Reach out to your local shelters and sanctuaries to become a volunteer. I promise, it will change your life.