Advent is upon us, and I realized I didn’t really know much about it. My friends M, J, & S have an Advent wreath with four candles, and B has an Advent calendar in the form of 26 small cubbies behind tiny little doors in which I have typically stuffed candy. When I was small, growing up in a Methodist church, I remember celebrating it, vaguely, but it’s meaning? Yeah, gone.
So, I did some very light research, enough to decide that Advent was intended as a period of deprivation towards cleansing in preparation for welcoming newcomers into the Christian faith, and later to prepare for the coming (first or second) of Christ. As with so many things, I wondered how we’d gone from a month or more of giving meaningful things up to getting something each day. I decided that I didn’t want to change the candy-in-the-calendar tradition because mythankfulboy really looks forward to the treat, but I wanted to add a little meaning. So, I borrowed and adapted from Childrenchalice.wordpress.com (which I found through the Alice the Chalice facebook page) a series of questions designed to ask kids at dinner each night of Advent. I wrote one for each day on a thin slip of paper and tucked one into each box. I asked him to respond on the back (tiny paper means wording doesn’t have to be elegant) and to deliver it to our evening chalice lighting for a bonus piece of chocolate. Yes, a bribe – I mean, a reward.
Yesterday the paper read, “What does kindness look like?” Mythankfulboy’s response was “It looks like going out of your way to make people happy.” He delivered it to me while I was putting lights on the Christmas tree, which is a two-evening process because I wrap each branch (I know, I know, but it makes me happy!) He sat in the red, cushy chair beside the tree and watched me wrap lights while we talked about his answer. His first thought was that it was a hard question to answer without mixing “kindness” with “happiness”. I said I thought that was because happiness – specifically someone else’s happiness – is usually central to kindness. We talked about times that making someone happy wasn’t the goal of kindness, and our examples were usually around supplying something that fulfilled a need instead of a want, which came around to happiness again because, when you step up and help someone get what they need, they are relieved and happy that someone cared enough to help them. He also brought up that kindness doesn’t have to mean going out of your way – that it can be something that barely takes a moment, but has a big impact, and maybe a bigger impact than you’d ever imagine. He said it was easy to be kind to me, because it’s easy to make me happy. At the time I just smiled, because it’s true for the most part, and it was sweet to hear. Now that I reflect on this, though, I think I’ll go back to him and ask him about being kind to people who may not be easy to make happy, or to people who may reject our attempts at generosity. Things worth spending time thinking about, right? Thank you, Advent.
We revealed a favorite snow globe from his collection last night – a light-up Santa with a glowing globe in front of him, a long scroll to which he’s referring, and swirling glitter. B has a sizeable collection, and this year I thought we’d get one out each evening instead of plunking them all down at once. In the glow of the snow globe chalice, B said he was thankful for a good day. I was thankful for having gotten lights on the bottom half of the Christmas tree…