Holidays are stressful for many people, but it’s easy to forget that our military families often have stressors unique to their situations. There are those who have loved ones overseas. Many families are far away from their “Home Towns,” and either can’t afford to go home, or can’t get the time off to go home. Many families are new to their neighborhoods, and don’t have others to help them celebrate. It’s easy to feel lonely when you’re the new kids on the block, or when a parents missing from the festivities. Today we’re going to discuss ways to help lower holiday anxiety for these families.
1) Adopt a family or individual service member.
My husband and I both grew up in homes with very special holiday traditions. Thanksgiving and Christmas were big deals for us, and our love of the holidays hasn’t lessened any over the years. It was really difficult the first Christmas we realized we wouldn’t be going home to be with our families. (I’ll admit that tears were shed more than once upon this realization.)
Our church family has really blessed us, however, by making sure we’ve been “adopted” for each major holiday, including Easter and even the 4th of July. Instead of feeling alone, we felt wanted and loved, which is what everyone seeks in even his or her own family. The families that have (and continue to) taken us in helped to create the beautiful story that is our life by making our new surroundings feel like a new home, rather than exile.
Adopting a family or individual service member can feel intimidating. Perhaps your own home has traditions that feel sacred. Or perhaps you’re worried you’ll impose on their already made plans. Please know that simply knowing you asked, that you wanted them will mean the world. It also takes some thinking ahead, as few people will feel brave enough to ask to part of your big day. Most military families will not want to impose on you, but if you ask, they’ll remember it for a long time.
2) Send Christmas cards or deployment packages to deployed family members.
One of the hardest parts for families who are separated over the holidays is knowing that their deployed spouse or parent will be alone. Sure, he might be with the friends he’s made during his deployment, but nothing can replace family during the holidays. Asking for that servicemember’s address will show his family that you really do care, and that will be a comfort to the whole family, not just the person receiving it. Simply sending a card is a wonderful gift, but if you feel so led, you can also create a care package. (Click here for care package ideas by Jo My Gosh, one of the best Christmas care package blog posts I’ve ever seen.)
3) Welcome gift boxes.
For families that are new to the area, a Welcome Box is always a blessing. You can have even more fun than usual with these during the Christmas season, however. You can make these as basic or as fancy as you like, but either way, they’re simply a way to tell your new neighbors that they’re not alone. Here are some ideas, both practical and Christmasy, but there’s really no limit to the possibilities!
4) Babysitting so Mom or Dad has time to shop.
I have a friend right now whose husband is deployed, and she’s had several friends step up to the plate and babysit for her. She’s said over and over again how helpful it’s been to simply have a few hours to Christmas shop for the kids. This is a gift that won’t cost you any money, but can mean the world to those who are playing both Mom and Dad this Christmas.
5) Secret Santa games
There are so many versions of this it’s impossible to count. You could do everything from the 12 Days of Christmas Gift Drop Off to leaving candy canes to You’ve Been Jingled! to simply leaving one of these cute little Neighbor Goodies. Again, you don’t need to spend tons of money. The idea behind this is simply letting your neighbor know that someone is thinking about them over the holiday season. (But, heck, you could do this when it’s not Christmas, too.)
One last thing, if your neighbor is new, don’t forget to introduce yourself at some point! While the mystery might be fun and sweet at first, the whole idea is letting the family or service member know who’s thinking about them. This kind of gesture might make your friendship stronger, or if you’re strangers, just might make you some lifelong friends you didn’t expect! But most importantly, you’ll have done something simply because it’s the right thing to do.
Why is this important?
Not every family has the same calling. Not everyone can adopt a military family or can afford extra gifts, and that’s okay. I encourage you to consider this if you haven’t already, however, because it glorifies God. Nothing sheds of the light of God’s love like going out of your way to help someone who feels very alone. I can’t tell you how many times God has answered our prayers through the generosity of others who gave their time, opened their homes, and just gave us little reminders that we were loved.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35
Do you have any tips or ideas you’d like to share? What about times where you were invited in unexpectedly? Leave a comment in the Comment Box below. And don’t forget, you can sign up for my newsletter for extra resources on neurological disorders, education, and spiritual encouragement. As always, thanks for reading!