5 Ways To Connect with Others during the Holidays

Some of us don't have family to spend the holidays with -- but that doesn’t mean we need to go it alone

CENTER: Volunteer at a Detroit parish. (CNS photo/Jim West). TOP RIGHT: Christmas cookies made by Palestinians in a home in Beit Sahour near Bethlehem. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill). BOTTOM LEFT: St. Nicholas entertains at a parish in Illinois. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)
CENTER: Volunteer at a Detroit parish. (CNS photo/Jim West). TOP RIGHT: Christmas cookies made by Palestinians in a home in Beit Sahour near Bethlehem. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill). BOTTOM LEFT: St. Nicholas entertains at a parish in Illinois. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)
The holiday season is upon us — a time of great celebration, family gatherings, feasting, laughter and storytelling. It’s a time to revisit memories and make new ones. It gives us a chance to be mindful of how much we have to be thankful for.

But for some of us, the holidays remind us of how alone we feel. Friends traveling home, spending time with their families, eating turkey and being merry can trigger feelings of isolation and exclusion from the holiday hype. Some of us don’t have family to spend time with — they might be too far away, emotionally distant, or just not in the picture at all. What’s a person to do?

In Brené Brown’s revolutionary TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability,” this witty Texan recounts her research regarding wholehearted belonging (and the shame that gets in the way.) Her discovery? That the only thing separating people who felt love and belonging and the ones who didn’t was this: the belief that they themselves are worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. The belief that they are worthy of something. This was enough.

With that “seek and you shall find” mentality, I propose five ways for you to connect with others and experience true feelings of belonging this holiday season:

  1. Seek out community events. Find out what’s happening in your city or town that you can be a part of. There will be parades, holiday concerts, shows and musicals to see. Who doesn’t love a good caroling choir? Ever participated in a turkey trot run/walk? Hit the pavement with the crowds and burn some calories before dinner. These things exist! It’s remarkable what a Google search can do for inspiration.

  2. Volunteer your time and resources. Thanksgiving isn’t only about recognizing thanks; it’s also about reciprocating thanks. Consider donating clothes, toys or canned goods to a local drive and offering to help sort these items, too. Sign up to volunteer at a soup kitchen or help cook and serve a special holiday meal for those less fortunate. Because of overwhelming demand, there will be a place for you serving Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner to others. Your actions out of a spirit of gratitude could be the reason someone else has food, shelter and a renewed perspective on life this season. Plus, you will have the chance to meet other volunteers and neighbors.

  3. Reach out to friends. Who’s to say you’re alone in wanting some company? Invite some people over for a night of board games (though you may lose said friends over a round of Monopoly) and a meal (even if it’s mac and cheese or takeout). There’s a lot to be said for a shout-out to friends (even acquaintances) on social media. Someone else could just be waiting for an invite!

  4. Bake and share it. Seriously. This is a thing. People underestimate the power of a baked good put in their personal space. It’s alarming how seemingly shy individuals will flock to a plate of chocolate chip cookies. The smell of a freshly baked pumpkin loaf changes the dynamic of a workplace. You might hear, “Hey, who made this?!” and voila — a conversation about how you found the recipe on Pinterest. If you want to be more formal about it, host a baking night. Have a bake-off and make it a competition.

  5. Find an outlet and extend an invite. In the words of Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I, author of The Holy Longing, “Spirituality is about what we do with our unrest.” Sink your teeth into a good book by reading it aloud, take more walks and soak in the sights, try that new restaurant you’ve been meaning to try, watch an old movie that makes you feel warm and fuzzy. All these things go great with company, so ask someone along! Don’t underestimate the power of a thoughtful invitation. There is a lot of beauty in sharing the simple and mundane.