I don’t know about you, but I love Thanksgiving. In the best years, we attend multiple family gatherings full of my most favorite of all Thanksgiving foods… dressing. I really love dressing. Now there’s always a debate between dressing and stuffing. For the uninitiated according to Food & Wine, stuffing is made inside the cavity of poultry (as the name suggests) and dressing is made in a separate pan. The best part about dressing is that no two people make it the same, but most taste really good. However aside from the real-life stuffing I’ll be doing to my gut that day, there are the mixed emotions around family gathers that many people look forward to or abhor and can’t wait until it’s all over.
Growing up in a big family, I always looked forward to the holidays. My cousins and I would run around like crazy, eat until we were stuffed, then run around like crazy again. Then as I got older, we would either host or attend other host family’s events, sit around like crazy, eat until we are stuffed, then sleep around like crazy. This is my tradition. However, after meeting many people in various walks of life, I know for some people this is not their tradition. From divorces, deaths, unfortunate incidences, and many other circumstances, there are many who do not look forward to these events. The loneliness can be unbearable or the in-laws can be too much. Maybe there is a past hurt or offense and now the idea of spending time together is frankly, uncomfortable.
Your circumstances aren’t universal
One of the greatest assets of a leader is to know that your own circumstance isn’t necessarily universal. Once that’s understood, knowing how another person views an event can help a leader empathize someone’s difference, then provide support through their experience. Gratefully, my wife Michele and I loved our five Christmases and look forward to seeing each other’s family members each year. But, I do have a friend who will be experiencing every holiday this year without a loved one for the first time. As a matter of fact, my father-in-law Ed will have his first Thanksgiving without his big sister this year.
So, although we can’t necessarily please everyone this holiday season, at least empathize with those who may have uncomfortable relationships knowing our experience is not universal. Additionally, invite someone who may not have family or friends in the area but would love an invitation. They may not accept the invite, but they will appreciate the offer. Happy Thanksgiving!