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The Christmas season can certainly bring out the best in us, and also the worst in us. In the stress of commercialism, numerous Christmas parties, pressures to buy the biggest and best gifts, and trying to patch up age-old family issues, it easy to forget that Christmas really is about togetherness and about sharing love - with even the "Grinches" in our lives.

The story of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" is a superb example of how tough yet effective it can be to show love to everyone and how sometimes goodness and love is packaged in ways we may not understand easily. In the story, a very ugly, very green hairy recluse Grinch hates Christmas. He lives far away from the village Whosville, up in the mountains, and never talks to anyone. He's mean and he's got a heart two sizes too small. And he is determined to make Christmas hell for everyone in the village. In the spirit of making Christmas bad for people, he steals presents, mixes up Christmas cards at the post office, and sends people awful Christmas cards with tax audit notices and jury duty notices. Yikes!!! I guess he didn't get up on the right side of the bed, for quite a few years.

Then there comes my hero - a little innocent girl by the name of Cindy Lou Who. Even though the Grinch tries to hurt her, she believes that there must be something good in him and she is determined to bring that out of him. She really wants to see that he is not excluded out of the joy of Christmas. She enquires about his history and finds out how he got hurt and ran away, never to come back, hating those who hurt him. She is called na´ve and she is put down by the people in the village for her efforts. Even though it takes Cindy the whole story to get Grinch to come around, she succeeds. Oooh.

Now, the whole Grinch story may be just a fairytale, I recognize that. It may not be realistic to think that someone mean and cold can transform into a sweet darling in the span of a day or two, just because of the strength of someone's love and care. That being said, I refuse to stop believing in fairytales and in the power of good over evil, in the power of love over anything else. I have experienced and seen enough transformations in people and their attitudes (including my own), as a result of someone choosing to love and to persevere with that love, even when it didn't seem that any changes were forthcoming. Another's belief can often be stronger than our own.

I believe that everyone deserves to have a Cindy in their life, especially those who seem like they deserve it the least. Often, the meanest people are the ones who were hurt the most and need love. I don't believe that anyone actually wakes up in the morning only to look in the mirror and scheme how to be the greatest jerk imaginable - unless they believe that they have a good reason to be that way.

I have been (and met) the Grinch. Have you noticed that it is easy to love those who come in easy and lovable outside packages - the pretty, nice people? It is tougher to see beauty when it comes with bad breath, in an ugly, mean, or any other "not like us" package. How do we love someone when they seem so different or when they push love away? The Grinch had a doormat in front of his door which said "Buzz Off!" I wish a sign like that could keep the tax man away, by the way. I have known people whose demeanor says the same thing, and yet they are thankful if people persevere. I believe that "buzz off" simply means "I don't trust you; You may hurt me". Trust takes time.

Do you have a Grinch in your life? A boss, a coworker, a parent? How about if you and I, together, keep believing in fairytales and in what belief and love can do?

Have a VERY Merry Christmas, with and without the Grinches in your life!

"It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves and it is not possible to find it elsewhere"
Agnes Repplier

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Recently, I saw a quote by Dennis Waitley, "A parents' job is to give roots and wings to their children". I love that quote and the imagery. Children grow roots from knowing there is stability and safety, that there is Mom and Dad to come home to. Children grow wings from taking courageous and risky steps.

This doesn't just apply to children, it applies to all of us. We function better when we have strong roots (community, relationships, financially stable). The stronger the roots, the easier it is for us to be willing to take a risk and fly. However, when we do, there is a time and space when we need to get pushed off the edge. If necessary, we need to be pushed off and have nobody trying to rescue us - unless we really are in trouble or unless someone noticed that, instead of a parachute, we mistakenly put on our backpack.

As my Mom and I were about to escape Czechoslovakia, at one point my Mom almost fell off the mountain into the abyss. Good chances are that she would not have survived if she had fallen in that spot. Not surprisingly, she got very afraid after that (heck, I can't think of ANYONE who wouldn't be just a tad concerned having just seen the Reaper peak over their shoulder!). She was afraid and she wanted to give up on the entire escape plan. She thought the whole thing got too dangerous for her liking and that we should go back home. I did as any teenager would have done, proud to outsmart a parent. I said, "I see a safe path over there, let me lead". And I took over. We were safe, yes. We made it down, yes. But - and I didn't know that then and I didn't realize the extent until much later - I gained my courage up there in the Alps and my Mom left her courage on the summit. Regaining it took years.

If I could do it all over again, I would have stayed with Mom until she got her courage back. I wouldn't have been her strength; that did more bad than good. Don't take over a tough task for people. Help them by holding their hand for a bit but step back to allow the struggle as they find their own courage! Then watch their pride!

"Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action."
Benjamin Disraeli

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I haven't yet met a person who doesn't like being appreciated and I haven't met too many people who wouldn't love even more appreciation in their lives. Appreciation and recognition is one of the cheapest and easiest forms of reward, yet it is so underused. Why?

I believe that one of the reasons is the "I will appreciate them once they appreciate me" attitude that we tend to take. The other reason is that, although we all may love to be appreciated, we all tend to have different views as to what recognition and appreciation looks like.

Some people understand that they are appreciated only when it comes publicly, with a big hoopla attached to it. Some shy people would feel awful if they were appreciated that way. Some people love to receive things (flowers, cards, large or small gifts), yet other people find "things" to be a waste of money. Some people love hugs, others hate them. Some people want nothing more than a few honest words of love.

As with anything else, communication is important here. If someone appreciates you in a way you don't relate to, say so in such a way that they keep appreciating you but change it to a form that you relate to. If you want to appreciate someone, ask them how THEY would like to be appreciated. You may be surprised with the increase in connection and intimacy this will cause in your relationships everywhere.

"Everything we say about other people is really about ourselves."
Merrit Malloy


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"God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them."
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