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The Gift of Encouragement

By Meagan Russell
In Bayou Kidz
Dec 1st, 2021

Sieze this Opportunity to Warm Someone’s Home or Heart

article by Cindy G. Foust

“Sleigh bells ring are you listening

In the lane snow is glistening

A beautiful sight oh we’re happy tonight

Walking in a winter wonderland”

These lyrics sound great and Norman Rockwell and all, but we don’t have any lanes glistening in snow, do we? As I sit in my big comfy chair writing this month’s column, about the only thing I can say that’s glistening is the sequins on my Christmas tree skirt. Don’t judge neighbors, I know it’s early and we haven’t technically even had Thanksgiving (we publish our magazine a month ahead) but I just felt I needed a pick-me-up a little early this year and my Christmas decorations make me happy. And they give me comfort, and that’s something I find myself needing a little bit of these days. Anyone else feeling the same sort of blues? I can’t quite put my finger on it, readers, I think maybe because I started the year off in chemo treatment but I’m finding myself just a little tired, and really feeling for some of my close family and friends who are on the cusp of the first holidays without their loved ones. During this time of year, when we should be feeling the “warm glow” we instead do nothing but go, go, go (you know I love a good rhyme). 

And whether we are ready for it or not, however, the Christmas Tsunami is on its way and many of us will not likely feel any relief until the day after Christmas, when we are sitting around looking for a Weight Watcher’s coupon watching the Hallmark Channel. Can I get an amen? 

Except, this year, I’m having a hard time kick-starting that warm glow when people I know are hurting. Sorry readers, I know I should be writing about gingerbread houses and the 2021 Toy Wish List (probably a space shuttle you can launch in your backyard as sophisticated as toys have gotten) but instead, I think I will write this month about how to be an encourager during the holiday season. 

Think about it, we all need a little encouragement from time to time, and that includes this writer. I did have a medical setback this year, but more importantly, I lost people I love… friends who are like family. Last January, I lost one of my best friends, and this holiday season, I find myself missing him even more. We all have that person, right? The one that cheers us on; gives great advice, even when it’s hard; and laughs at all our jokes. Paul Aron and I have been friends since I was in college, and he was truly the salt of the earth. What you saw is what you got… but let me tell you, if he loved you, he loved you hard. Loyal…fiercely loyal he was and would help anyone at any time for anything. Even though he was crabby sometimes. And bossy. But hey, aren’t we all? 

There is definitely a sorrow in my soul since his loss, and I laugh out loud when I think about the joke he would make if he knew I was listening to Christmas music staring at my sequin Christmas tree skirt.

And then there’s my friend Ryan Chappell…husband to my boss, who graciously shared him with us on a week to week basis. Smart he was, but more importantly, he was kind. He never met a stranger and I was fortunate enough to be privy to some of the articles he wrote for various magazines. It might be a little known fact about Ryan, that he was a gifted writer, because he was so talented at so many other things. I wasn’t gifted the length of friendship years with him that I had with Paul, but Ryan was a true friend; kind and loyal and completely devoted to Susan, their children and grandchildren. 

It may seem like an awkward column, readers, writing about two people who meant a lot to me, but here’s the crux: loss is hard, especially at the holidays, and we are all in a position to do something about it.

Yes, another lesson in the simplicity of life, and how the smallest of efforts mean the most to people. A cup of coffee and a few hours to sit and talk with someone costs us nothing. Well, except our time, which seems to be our most valuable commodity. With these very thoughts in mind this month, I decided to go for it this month and encourage each one of you to stop the busy rat race for just a wee minute to give someone the most important gift you have and that’s your time. 

No matter our age or station in life, we can all give something that is completely free and will mean so much to someone; I’m talking about giving someone your time, your thoughts, your efforts. Now, don’t any of you get a brief moment of inspiration and think running by and seeing a long lost aunt for 20 minutes is what I’m talking about.

No, readers, I am asking you to dig a little deeper this year. I’m asking you to sit down with your family and think of someone you all know and love, perhaps someone who has been through a hard time this year, or is currently going through a loss in their life. Think of someone who could use a little Christmas sparkle, a little Christmas glistening maybe (and for any dads out there currently rolling their eyes, I have but two words for you… Bah Humbug!).

After you settle in on this person, or perhaps this family, pull out a piece of paper and as a family, decide on something you can do to encourage them this holiday season. What am I talking about? How about inviting them over to dinner? Or taking them out for a meal? Or how about a card that everyone signs or maybe even the children make. Listen, don’t over complicate this… it’s the age old “it’s the thought that counts” mentality. 

Well, unless some of you want to do this for me and in that case, I would love a new car. Or a trip to Italy. Seriously, just write a simple note letting them know you are thinking of them during the holidays and maybe even leave an ornament. Let your kids get creative with the process. A trip to the Dollar Store usually scores some treasures!

Homemade treats are also always a favorite, unless you are my friend, Melanie, and then I sure hope her recipient likes chicken nuggets! Some other cool ideas might be a holiday movie, gift cards, or even a homemade certificate that offers to do something nice like mow their grass. Whatever you choose to do, remember to leave a note of encouragement and let them know you are thinking about them and praying for them during the holiday season. Whatever you do, make this a family project and really emphasize how important it is to give of our time and resources to others, particularly when those we love are experiencing a difficult season in their life. 

The holidays, even with all the glam and lights and decorations, can still be a time of sadness and hurt. Seize this opportunity to warm someone’s home or their heart with the gift of encouragement. It’s a chance to prove to your young, impressionable children (or your Grinch-like husband) why this is truly the most wonderful time of the year. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the wonderful community who invites us into your homes each month. It is a distinct pleasure and privilege to be part of the BayouLife community that I love so much.

Cindy G. Foust is a wife, mom, author and blogger. You can find her blog at the alphabetmom.com for weekly columns about home life,  parenting, small business stories and insight with a smidgen of literacy. Give her a like or follow on Facebook and Instagram.