Holidays can be tough. It sounds counterintuitive perhaps, but it’s true. Sometimes holidays remind us of people or events that used to be here and now for whatever reason are not. Sometimes holidays bring us into such close contact with people who are important to us, just the closeness can create tension. Often the travel involved can be extremely taxing on our bodies. Holidays can remind us of the brokenness in our lives, past and present.
When I talk with my friends about the holidays, some of them seem genuinely hopeful and excited. But many anticipate the holidays with a measure of anxiety. They just want to make it through without any major blowups or other kinds of pain.
How about you? As you look toward Thanksgiving and Christmas, what emotions are primary for you?
I’m reminded of my friend Josh Riebock’s book Heroes and Monsters. It’s a brilliant memoir, and in it a twenty-something Josh recounts the deaths of his father and mother. All that’s left of his immediate family is his relationships with his siblings, and he could see them all drifting apart from each other very easily. He makes a deliberate choice to reach out, to be a brother who is present and concerned and giving.
What if we made a similar choice? Here’s my humble contribution to that effort.
I want to offer five questions you can ask your family and friends.
The intention behind these questions is engagement. My hope is they will help you engage the people closest to you in ways that are healthy and life-giving.
1. What’s your favorite movie and why?
Movies are a cultural commonality. They make for a convenient place to start a conversation that could take us to unexpected places if we listen closely to what the other person says.
2. If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
The places we long to visit often reveal things that are important to us.
3. What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments and why?
This is an opportunity to celebrate something that is dear to your loved one. Give them a high five!
4. What’s one of your happiest memories?
This, again, is a reason to celebrate. Relive the memory with them.
5. What are you thankful for?
This one is tried and true for Thanksgiving tables all over the country. It’s a natural question to ask, and again it can be revelatory.
When you ask these questions, remember these three tips:
- Leave your phone in a different room and listen carefully! Really listen to what the other person is saying.
- Ask follow-up questions. This often is very natural when we’ve followed tip 1 above.
- Don’t judge. The person you’re asking may answer differently than you hoped or expected. That’s okay. Let them be who they are, and love them where they are.
I hope and pray your holidays are filled with joy and meaning.
Question: Which of these questions could you envision yourself asking your family or friends?
Feel free to comment below!