As I was growing up, thousands of holiday pictures like those of Currier and Ives were everywhere. They portrayed holidays at Grandma and Grandpa’s perfect farmhouse, surrounded by fields of mounds of hay with frolicking animals in the yard. Grandma was smiling at the stove ~ her white apron perfectly tied at the waist and her gray hair in a bun! Grandpa was sitting in a chair by the fire enjoying his pipe and admiring his newly set logs on the roaring fire. You could practically smell the food cooking in these tempting pictures.
The pictures were the ideal. They were also unrealistic.
The reality is that when families get together, usually because they live some distance apart these days, what people expect and what they find are likely to be two different experiences. The expectation is to be surrounded by loving, caring, perfectly wonderful people who fit into our image of how picture-perfect families should be.
The reality is that the same things that irritated us about each person in the family previously tend to come alive again as people revert back to their younger days and repeat their same old bothersome ways! They trigger the very emotions and thoughts – Oh, how we hated them! – that we hoped had been forgotten and left far behind us!
Some family gatherings might be like visiting with one or more of the seven dwarfs, where you have Doc (the philosopher or know-it-all), Grumpy (the complainer), Sleepy (the drowsy one), Bashful (and a little ashamed), Sneezy (the hypochondriac), Dopey (the easy going and lovable one), and Happy (the one who smiles through it all).
It’s easier to love the image of families and holidays in our minds than it is to love the real live family members themselves. The image is perfect. The people are not!
Then there is always the endless list of excuses to avoid family gatherings. “Let’s stay only two hours and use the excuse of such-and-such to get out of there.”
It is very comfortable and satisfying to love people who are lovable and who love us. It is easy to love people who do nice things for us and joyfully serve us. That takes no effort at all. It takes hardly any thought! Anyone can do that.
What about another option? A more pleasant one for ourselves and for others?
To love people who are not easy to love is to move to a much higher level of living. It is a maturing process that is very serene and peaceful.
It means appreciating people just because they are human beings and part of the living group of people who reside on the planet with us during our lifetime. It means setting aside individual likes and dislikes and just letting people be as they are. No judging. No condemnation. It means respecting other lives in spite of the fact that their choices are not our choices. They live life this way; we live life that way. They do things this way; we do things that way. No big deal! It really doesn’t matter!
The priceless gift that comes with this new option:
Simply loving people just because they are people brings to you a beautiful serenity and a divine peacefulness within. That is the ideal, and that is realistic!