The holidays are hard work. It's almost like taking on a second job for one month each year.
First there's the planning. Then there's the cooking. Add to it the shopping, the wrapping and the unwrapping. Throw in a belligerent aunt or uncle, or add some screaming kids, and you've got yourself a real party.
As another Christmas season gets underway, it can be too easy to dread it as just another set of deadlines or an unending succession of holiday checklists. Through enough years, routines begin to set in, and what might be called "tradition" in one breath is surely just "habit" in the next.
I greeted Thanksgiving week in this simmering funk, treating the pending holiday like soulless drudgery and, in turn, making any actual work seem that much more difficult. Then, the day before the holiday, my office door opened up, and in stepped Deneva.
Deneva was desperate over her lost dog, Chloe. The tiny Yorkie had gone missing six days earlier, and Deneva had spent long hours scouring the streets despite her own limited mobility. She tried flyers. She tried Facebook. Nothing seemed to work.
As she told me her story with tears in her eyes, I saw it for the painful, desperate appeal it was. Other than nodding, and perhaps posting it on our own Facebook page, there was little I could do. I had few doubts about Chloe's probable fate.
Then Deneva's phone rang, and a sudden glow washed over her face. She hastily ran for the door, shouting a street address as she went. I grabbed a camera and followed her.
We didn't have to go far. Just three blocks away, tiny Chloe had found refuge with a young couple, Jori and Leo, who had found her days earlier huddled in a shivering ball not far from their home. They brought her inside, where she shared space with Jori and Leo's frantic chihuahua mix named Joker. They didn't know a thing about their furry visitor until they spotted one of Deneva's flyers that morning.
They all shared some laughs about Chloe's adventure and exchanged warm wishes for the Thanksgiving holiday. Deneva wept. I snapped some pictures. Then we went our separate ways.
Holidays can be work, and work is rarely a holiday, but that experience was a first for me on both counts.
As we settle into another yuletide season, it's easy to slip into comfortable routines or uneasy habits. But remember to look for something new, too. Don't forget to take a moment to take a breath, look around, and be ready for the moments that look fleetingly like little miracles.
Most of all, take a second to remember that the holidays don't have to be as difficult as we sometimes make them. This isn't work. Just like so many years past, we'll get through this one together. Hopefully, along the way, we'll see a few other surprises, too.