THE HOLIDAYS,  CHRISTMAS and New Year’s, offer a great opportunity to look back on your life and think about all the good old days, and how we can make the coming days better than ever. Remember, family is a treasure chest worth more than a mountain of gold.

I recently came across this challenge from Dan Pearce, an artist, author and photographer, from Salt Lake City, Utah. He also writes a blog called “Single Dad Laughing.” Here is one of his holiday messages.

My request today is simple. Today, tomorrow, next week, find somebody, anybody, that’s different than you; somebody that has made you feel ill-will or even hateful.

Find somebody whose life decisions have made you uncomfortable; somebody who practices a different religion than you do; somebody who has been lost to addiction; somebody with a criminal past.

Find somebody who dresses “below” you; somebody with disabilities; somebody who lives an alternative lifestyle; somebody without a home; somebody that you, until now, would always avoid, always look down on and always be disgusted by.

Reach your arm out and put it around them. And then, tell them they’re all right. Tell them they have a friend. Tell them you care about them.

Pearce wrote “If you or I wanna make a change in this world, that’s where we’re gonna be able to do it. That’s where it has to start.”

*  *  *

DAVE COLLINS wrote the following article for the Catholic Digest more than 32 years ago. I want to share it with you this week because it reflects the “real Christmas spirit.”

Willard Franklin was strictly a loner. From the first day he entered my classroom, Franklin existed in his own world. My attempts to be friendly had met with total indifference; his classmates fared no better.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, we received word of the annual Christmas collection. “Christmas is a time for giving,” I told my students.

“There are some needy families in our school district who might not have a happy holiday without the food, clothing and toys our collection provides. You can help by bringing in your contributions tomorrow.”

When I called for the contributions the next day, almost everyone had forgotten. Everyone except Franklin. The boy dug deep in his pocket and dropped a dollar’s worth of change into the container.

“I don’t need anything for lunch today,” he mumbled. And for a moment, just a moment, he smiled.

That night, after school, I took our meager collection to the principal. I told him about Franklin’s generosity. “I might be wrong,” I said “But I believe Willard may be ready to open up to the world.”

“Yes,” the principal nodded. “But I have a hunch we might profit even more from opening up to his world. I just received the list of poor families who most need our Christmas collection this year.

“And do you know whose family heads the list? Willard Franklin’s.”

*  *  *

WHAT DO you like about the holiday season? Hopefully, you had a great time with your family at Thanksgiving. Now, final preparations are being made for Christmas and New Year’s. Take a few minutes to make a list of things that will make your holidays special. See what you can add to this list:

I like the closeness of family and friends, and the way we make extra time to spend with each other.

I like how we think about others more than ourselves and wish it could be like that all year long.

I like how we are more cheerful and willing to stop and chat and ask about others’ families, and really care what they say.

I like the hustle and bustle of trying to get the little extras done like baking and putting the finishing touches on the decorations and packages.

I like the smell of cinnamon and freshly-cut boughs, and sugar cookies and the crisp air right before it snows.

I love to see Christmas trees of all kinds with twinkling lights and decorations. No two are exactly alike.

I love to drive around at night, and see the lights and listen to Christmas carols on the radio.

I love to see Santa ride down the street on his sleigh and all the children who gather around him, bursting to tell him how good they have been and what is their fondest desire to see under the tree.

For many people, attending the Christmas Eve services at their church is the most blessed feeling of the season. There is a sense of unison and security that produces a warm glow within.

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said “You get more joy out of giving joy to others and you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.”

Sometimes sharing a simple “thank you” can speak volumes. Seek out a mentor or your child’s favorite teacher and let them know you appreciate what they have done for you. It’s a good time to be kind to yourself. Remember, we can’t pour from an empty vessel.

If this little exercise helps put you in a positive Christmas spirit, then maybe that is something to be thankful for in this divisive time.