I also love the idea that each person’s individual donation is added to the collective, essentially rendering it anonymous. It becomes less ‘That one is the box of cereal I donated’ and more ‘Look how we all just helped make this season a bit better’. In this way, this tradition adds to the magic of the Christmas season.
As I thought about the CP train this past week, I recognized that each of us takes a ‘train ride’ this holiday season too. We each hop aboard our own Holiday Express. Each of our trains stop at many different stations on the way. At some stops, we pause only long enough to make a quick pick-up. These are the stops like the grocery store, or the mall, or even at a colleague’s office for a quick conversation. Other times we get right off the train and do a little exploring. These may be the longer stops, like ones where we visit family or old friends. Or perhaps these are the stops where we take the time to go ice skating or play a board game. Sometimes, of course, we even hitch a ride on ‘the bullet’; the train travelling so fast we barely recognize stations as we whiz past.
This year as we find ourselves absorbed by our own journey on our own Holiday Train, it’s worth remembering that just as it is important that our train arrives at all of our planned stations, it is equally important that we recognize that there are people anxiously awaiting us at each stop. The CN Holiday Train would not have had a fraction of its success had it advertised that people could just show up at the station any time during the day, drop their food donation in a bin, and leave their money with the station master. Part of the success of this amazing tradition is the anticipation of the train in each town and city.
For starters, the train itself looks pretty sharp, decked out in sparkling coloured Christmas lights. Each station prepares a celebration. Musicians are on hand, filling the air with a wonderful energy. Decorations are hung, letting us know something important is at hand. Everyone is included and made to feel welcome and important. The anticipation in the faces of the crowd let us know the preparations have been worth the effort.
As I recall some moments of Christmases past, I know there have been times when I have been so concerned with just getting into and out of each station, I have failed completely to notice that others have been awaiting my arrival, and that they have gone to great effort to make my stay, short or long, a good one. Similarly, when I have acted as the ‘station’, where other trains have arrived at my door, I may not have put quite as much care into making arrivals feel as important as they really were. I wonder if I may sometimes have stopped only long enough to pick up or drop off guilt and a feeling of inadequacy, rather than noticing all the other gifts at my disposal.
When our kids were very young, I heard about a wonderful little December idea that I soon adopted. We always set out a Nativity display in our home. It goes without saying this is not a tradition unique to our family. The new idea was to set a basket of straw beside the stable. The kids were told that during the month of December, we were each to think of things we could do to help out at home, or things that would be kindnesses to others. As we quietly did each of these, we were to secretly, without telling anyone, take a piece of straw and place it under baby Jesus; the idea being that if we celebrated December with the spirit of the season, Baby Jesus would have a very soft bed to lay in on Christmas morning. Of all the traditions we held, this one may have been my favourite. There is nothing like taking a small piece of straw and placing it in a manger to force us to remember the importance of the little things at this very busy time of year.
Each year starting from the day in early December when I would ask my friend, Cheryl, to bring me a little bag of straw from her ranch to use in our basket, right through to Christmas morning, this little Christmas tradition of ours was the most helpful for me to slow down my train, to be mindful of what I picked up at each station and of what I dropped off.
May you too find just the right Holiday Train to board for these next few weeks.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What train am I on?’
Elizabeth provides leadership and personal coaching for individuals and teams. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. Contact Elizabeth to help you sort out the train schedule ensuring you stop at only the most important stations.