scarcityMost women with whom I speak are concerned about the economy long-term, and about how they’ll afford their families a happy, bountiful holiday season, short-term.  It’s natural that the loss of jobs or income, real or anticipated, creates tremendous uncertainty and fear in each of us, about an unknown future.

I am heartened to see how many women are attempting to make the most out of weakened financial situations.  I contend, however, that we can do even better than that. In fact, if we look hard enough, we’ll find hidden “gems”, buried within the financial strain so many of us face this holiday season, and here are a few:

  • Our shared economic fears give us a reason to come out of isolation and create a greater sense of community with family, friends and neighbors.  Paradoxically, people often become more generous of spirit when times are tough, and are more apt to focus on others’ troubles in addition to their own.  An economic downturn can act as a leveler, because people from all backgrounds, social strata and financial means are sharing the pain.
  • Economic hard times cause us to re-evaluate our priorities and become clearer about what’s truly important in our lives.  Too much money breeds a focus on things, and the status they imply. When the “self-medication” of spending isn’t a possibility, we are left to face reality and re-focus on the important things such as substantial relationships with family and friends, and the spiritual foundations from which our holidays spring.
  • Financial scarcity may cause us to re-establish old holiday traditions that are more affordable, and often more meaningful, such as making our own holiday ornaments or instituting a “grab-bag”.
  • Loss of funds may encourage us to develop new skills or resurrect old ones, as we think of creative and more affordable ways to give,  e.g. refinishing an old piece of furniture rather than buying a new one; baking, sketching, or writing a holiday gift rather than unconsciously going on line, credit card in hand, to purchase one.  The love and care that the gift-giver puts into creating a present is at least as rewarding to the giver as it is to the receiver.

Now the key is to use these unique circumstances during this holiday season to help ourselves, as well as those around us, and here are some suggestions:

  • Make at least one holiday gift, or your holiday cards.
  • Bake holiday cookies and bring them to someone who is alone or troubled.
  • Provide a loved one with a much-needed service, rather than a tangible gift, e.g.  re-arrange their shambles of a closet or chaotic kitchen.
  • Serve food at a Women’s Shelter..
  • When you find yourself worrying about your own economic situation, use that as your cue to think of someone who is not as blessed as you, and reach out to them by phone, e-mail, or best of all, in person.
  • Be keenly aware of the chance to offer a smile, a hello, or a hand to a stranger.

The immortal words of Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities ring true in our current economic climate:  “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times”.  Each of has a choice:  We can make this the worst of times by feeling sorry for ourselves or focusing on our fears, or we can make it the best of times by “mining” for all of the hidden gems buried within it, thereby making this the happiest and most memorable holiday season, ever.