Change. It’s a given isn’t it? And yet, the changes we have all experienced since last December is on a level none of us could have even imagined this time last year.
The pandemic has changed the world in which we live. Whether you found yourself in a neonatal intensive care unit, grieving the death of a baby, parent or loved one, experiencing job loss and financial insecurity, or just trying to figure out how to manage it all, the pandemic and the ways our lives have changed because of it have left a mark on each of us. As we enter the holiday season this year, you may be finding it a little more difficult to find joy during the “most wonderful time of the year”.
A week or so ago, NICU Helping Hands’ annual Cookies with Santa event had to be postponed due to local issues with the spread of COVID. Our staff had painstakingly transitioned this annual in person event to a safe, drive thru event that still had an opportunity to have socially distanced photos taken with Santa. But because community numbers of COVID were rising and our ICU beds were filling, the venue was closed due to state mandate. Months of work and a significant financial investment for the event was lost. Most importantly, a bright and joyful moment for our NICU and post-NICU families was now also gone. I was disappointed and emotionally exhausted.
Our event date came and went, but the disappointment I was feeling lingered. All that came to an abrupt end when my husband, a local neonatologist came home from the NICU wearing a Santa suit one evening. He had spent the afternoon in a local NICU taking photos with the parents and babies. The very sight of him arriving home in that red suit and furry hat was just the medicine my soul needed.
We took some quick photos of him around our house and then we decided it would be fun to take photos of “Santa” visiting our friend’s front porches and then send them proof of a little holiday magic at their own front door.
We were having so much fun that we continued our evening with a little neighborhood walk. My husband played the part perfectly as he smiled and waved at every person we passed. Cars honked at him, children chased him down the street, and he happily waved and said “Ho, Ho, Ho” to everyone within earshot.
The spreading of this holiday cheer…well, it was contagious and suddenly my own mood had improved immensely. By taking the opportunity to seize those moments, I was investing in my own mental health and perspective on the world around me.
The belief that joy, peace, and most importantly HOPE, were still present in our crazy, chaotic, pandemic ridden world were suddenly alive in my life. It was a wonderful, refreshing feeling to say the least.
That spontaneous moment resulted in a massive perspective change for me. Instead of sitting with the disappointment of things gone awry, I took the opportunity to see what was right in front of me – Santa, and the chance to spread a little holiday cheer. My heart was flooded with joy, and peace and hope in doing that. Joy, peace and hope hadn’t gone anywhere this year. The difficulty was, the changes in my life because of the pandemic had resulted in me not getting up to open my own front door and see the magic that was waiting for me each day in spite of the pandemic.
Daily living filled with challenges, disappointments, loss, grief, fear, or a raging pandemic has a way of slowly chipping away at our joy, peace and hope, and blinding us to the signs that those things can still exist in our lives and in our world. We have the power to reclaim those three things every single day. But we have to be intentional about making the decision to actively look for them. All is not lost. Joy to the world can still happen. Peace on earth can be found. Hope truly does spring eternal. As for our Cookies with Santa event? Well, we are trying it again this weekend. It will look different than last year, and different from what we had planned for this year. But actively seeking the opportunity to bring joy and hope to others is important and worth doing – for them and for myself. Even though it will look different it will bring joy. And I am choosing to grab onto that hope for today.