In the crazy commercial times that can be Christmas, I love the symbolism of Advent. We’re Catholic, and in our tradition, Advent is a time of waiting and preparation. It’s a time of taking the light of the Advent candles into our hearts, and sharing that light with others.
A couple of years ago, in an attempt to make the purpose of Advent tangible to the kids, I came up with the idea of an Advent box. We talked about specific ways we might make ourselves light-filled people. What little acts could we do that might bring happiness to others? We decided to put slips of paper beside the box, and when any of us did something kind for someone else, we could secretly write it down and put it in the box.
At the end of Advent we would count the slips of paper in the box. We would give each a monetary value-I think we made them worth $1-and we would use the money we “raised” to buy an animal for a needy family through Heifer International.
Of course, we aren’t really raising money, so any money earned comes from the family account. But I like the idea of having our actions be the basis of our donation-and the kids are always able to pitch in some of their own money in the end, if they choose to.
If you read my last post, you’ll remember how I was touched by our friend Dave, and his positive attitude. How he didn’t begin his day of driving by complaining, as I think many of us might be inclined to, but instead he recognized the beauty in the morning.
I thought about that for the rest of my morning, and knew what I wanted to work on for Advent: I want to be a more positive person. I want to give up complaining.
I’ve reserved Complaint-Free World from the library. It hasn’t come yet, so I haven’t looked at it and don’t know much about it. Plus, I’m not really a self-help book kinda gal. But I figure it’s worth a skim. I’d like to get the author’s take on how complaining affects us.
But you don’t need a book to give up complaining. You just need to stop complaining. I’ve been trying for four days now, and it hasn’t been too hard. One morning as we tried to rush out the door, and I pointed out the mess that would be waiting on the kitchen table when we got home, Lulu said, “That’s complaining.” She was right. Typically I might have responded with a snarky, “I’ll mind my own complaining, thank you very much.” But crazy as it sounds, I appreciated having her point it out. Because I want to be a successful non-complainer.
It feels good not to complain! I think we believe that complaining releases frustrations and makes us feel better, but willingly refraining from complaining is an even better “feeling better”. That said, I haven’t had to work too hard to restrain my complaining the last four days. They’ve been an easy, positive few days. But have they been positive merely by chance? Or positive because I haven’t complained?
Either way, there are at least four more slips in the Advent box than there were on Sunday. And each says, “Today I tried hard not to complain.”
Each slip gets us closer to a chicken, or a goat, or a llama for a family somewhere in the world. A little light from our family to theirs.