Instead of overdoing, ask ‘How is your heart?’

Published 4:45 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The holiday season is officially upon us.

For many, the season started before Halloween with stores decked out with Christmas trees, tinsel, and flashing lights.

It is the time of busyness. Our calendars become full with overindulgences. Parties and Christmas gift exchanges. Decorating our houses inside and out. Trees overladen with ornaments and lights. We overcook, overeat, overbuy, trying to outdo or overdo.

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We meet people out and ask the same obligatory questions. How are you? Ready for Christmas? Have your Christmas shopping finished yet? Occasionally, I will meet the Christmas overachievers who inform me they were finished in August.

Why is it that we are the “overs?” That we base our lives on overdoing? What if we just settled on being and we quit thinking that if a little is enough that a little more is greater?

I ask myself these same questions every year. I am becoming more nostalgic for the Christmases I remember.

Stockings with an orange, an apple, ribbon candy. A brand new toothbrush. My mother, who sewed for us each year at Christmas, a new robe and nightgown and Christmas dress. An outfit from JC Penny because momma made everything we wore. A red transistor radio from Sears. My first monogram sweater. The simple things. The one big gift instead of 20 big gifts.

Again, it could be the fact the “overness” is a societal belief, because we base all our success of what we do, what we buy, what we give, who we appear to be rather than who we actually are. We become the state of over on the continent of I am so busy. What if we all decided to stop this madness and looked for the simple things that truly feed us? A plant. A bouquet of flowers in the dead of winter. A bowl of hot soup and homemade bread. A host of birds at the bird feeder. A warm home.

In my case, it would be a candle with a fragrance that permeates my home, a cup of steaming coffee to drink while I sit and watch the snow fly across the winter sky, a good book that feeds my soul and heart, a rug hooking pattern to paint with wool.

What if we decided to give the gift of our heart and asked those we meet and those we love a question?

In these days of busyness ahead looking forward to the celebration of Christmas, let us not ask, “How are you?” Instead, let us ask as Omar Safi, a professor at Duke University, suggests: “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?”

The holidays cause our hearts, minds and bodies to be overextended and overworked.

We should examine gratitude, openness and love.

As this season of busyness, overspending and overindulgence begins to creep into my heart, I hope I remember as Laura Ingalls Wilder did: “It is not the things you have that make you happy. It is love and kindness and helping each other and just plain being good.” (The Big House In the Woods)

May we do all these things and not overdo at the risk of forgetting the true meaning of Christmas.

May we in our busyness remember a couple in a cramped stable with a child who is the King of the world and our heart.

Ask yourself and those around you, “How is your heart?”

Lisa Johns is a former teacher and librarian as well as an activist on revitalizing downtown Winchester.