This Christmas, the best gift you can give to some people is your company

by Jordan Green

Somewhere in your community, someone you know has a short Christmas list this year. While many of us tell our families that we want new clothes, toys, and other material objects, some folks have only one request this Christmas.

And Santa Claus can’t fill this order, no matter how good the little boy or girl has been this year. Someone you know wants nothing more than to spend this holiday with someone – anyone at all. For millions of Americans, what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year is anything but.

A 2017 AARP study found that almost a third of Americans are lonely during the holidays, and roughly 41% of Americans are concerned that a friend or loved one could feel that way. Keep in mind, that data was compiled before the coronavirus pandemic claimed the lives of about 800,000 Americans – and counting. For the family and friends of those lost, the pandemic likely worsened preexisting issues such as depression and loneliness.

But people were lonely before the pandemic, too.

And many will be lonely long after it’s over. Consider the following: Someone you know has lost a loved one in the last year, leaving their home empty and cold. Someone you know has lost contact with a dear friend, and that person longs to restore that relationship. Someone you know has made mistakes that have driven away family members and friends – and this person would do anything to change the past.

Someone you know really doesn’t understand why he or she is lonely this Christmas. But they’re crying out for someone to console them. The people who fit into these categories are numerous.

Yet they just want one thing this Christmas – one person. That person, Friend, could be you. And you don’t have to exert much effort or money to make a difference.

All you have to do is give up a little time. If you know someone who is going to spend Christmas alone, you can take several courses of action to change that situation. You can invite this person over to your family’s Christmas gathering, take this person out to eat or make a quick visit to the person’s home on Christmas.

If nothing else, give this person a phone call – and don’t be in a hurry to hang up. And if Christmas Day is just not possible, Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas are almost as good.

It’s the thought that counts. Of course, we should be doing these things with lonely people year-round, not just during the holidays. But days like Thanksgiving and Christmas are especially rough because holidays have always been times when families gather and celebrate the joy in their lives. These memories live on, but sadness sets in when people realize they can no longer create new memories with family members.

Christmas nostalgia can be beautiful when we have people to reminisce with. If we’re alone, though, reflection is painful. This year, you might be the person who lifts another out of one of the darkest days of his or her life. You might be the only Christmas gift someone receives this year.

You might be the best gift someone has ever had – or ever will have. My good friend and mentor Dayle McGaha usually ends his columns on this page with a reminder to check up on elderly folks and people who live alone.

My friends, let me tell you this: We all need to do this now more than ever before.

Around the holidays, we often raise money and donate food to the less fortunate, namely those who have fallen on hard financial times. But the definition of being less fortunate must be expanded. It should certainly include those who aren’t fortunate enough to spend Christmas with a friend or loved one.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have someone to share Christmas with must consider those who aren’t. The old saying that it’s better to give than to receive is still true. This Christmas, give of your time to visit someone who would otherwise spend the holiday alone. Santa won’t be able to fill some people’s Christmas wish lists this year. But you can.