I am not a big fan of holiday music although there are a few I really, really like. One of these was playing today and I always stop and listen to it when it comes on: Do They Know It's Christmas? (by the 1980s pop effort Band Aid).
This song came out in 1984. When I was listening to it today, I realized that every time I hear it, I am transported back to the Christmastime of that year when I was 13 years old.
It was not the happiest or easiest time in my life. At a time when peers are very important, I was socially awkward (to put it gently). I felt alone, most of the time. My parents really didn't know what to do with a moody, introverted hormonal disaster and left me alone a lot to deal with my angst on my own.
I did, however, have my grandparents. I was really lucky to grow up a mile or so away from my maternal grandparents who had an open heart and open door policy to me. They were always there for me, and always with a kitchen full of homemade, heart- and soul-warming food.
At the holiday time of year, they also always had a roaring fire and lots of marshmallows to roast over it; always nearby but not hovering. Present but not smothering. Interested but not demanding - and never judgmental. I remember listening to Do They Know It's Christmas, my 13-year-old self, dreaming about a world bigger than that of my middle school with all of its petty yet powerful bullying and battles. A world where people like my pop idols (many of whom were part of Band Aid) dedicated their time and talents to issues like world hunger. That maybe someday I could help the world in a meaningful way too. That there was something else, something to reach for - a ladder to grab onto, to begin a climb out of my pain and solitude - my utter insignificance. I do know that my grandparents always thought I was someone special and that this helped me hang in there. It was often all I felt I had, but it was enough.
Both of my grandparents have been gone for many years as I write this. Still, every time I hear that song, I think about their warm house, their warm hearts, and how grateful I am that I had them when I very well may have needed them the most.
I'm now a doctor, wife, mother, and a mentor to young people; those early days seemingly so far away. It gives me pause to think of the 13-year-old me and how my dreams really did come true; there really was life beyond my small world back then. And it gives me peace to think that I may be able to give someone else the same sense of unconditional acceptance at a time it may seem hard to come by. How the relationship, or just my presence, may be the difference between hanging on or letting go.
What I am realizing more and more is this: I don't have to "feed the world" to make a difference with this life I've got. It may be the opening of my home and heart to just one person who needs it like I did that makes my life matter the most.
Dr. Cindy Haines is a family doctor, medical journalist, and "70.3 yogi." For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn’t mean better health. Dr. Haines and Metcalf reveal some of the most egregious problems with a medical system gone awry, opening readers’ eyes to how to better navigate the changes underway. Using solid research, insiders’ insights, and patient anecdotes, they offer cost-effective and potentially life-saving ways to get more out of health care while using less of it.
Published On: December 17, 2013