A Christmas Reflection from Killian

In each of the Cafés that make up the Recovery Café Network we seek to acknowledge the various holidays and traditions of our Members. This week we are celebrating Christmas. In our Seattle Cafés we celebrate Christmas by decorating a freshly-cut tree with lights and ornaments, serving delicious meals, giving away warm, winter coats, gloves, and other essential items, like cookies—lots of cookies. We’ve loved hearing about some of the wonderful ways you are celebrating in your Cafés.

I’d like to suggest four additional ways we can celebrate the Christmas story of unconditional love coming into the world.

First, we can celebrate by putting down the baggage of hurts and resentments. When my daughter, Kietrie, was five years old she announced she was “running away from home.” She pulled our largest suitcase out of a closet and began to fill it with her favorite books, toys and clothes. She added a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a gallon container of Country Time Lemonade Mix. She closed the suitcase and was ready to go, but the suitcase wouldn’t budge. It was too heavy for her to take her next step toward the freedom she said she wanted. Carrying around past hurts and resentments weighs us down and makes it hard for us to take our next steps toward the freedom for which we long.

Another way we can celebrate Christmas is by intentionally inviting unconditional love to permeate the places of pain in us. We all have places of pain in us; wounds we have received from those who were not able to love us the way we needed to be loved and some self -inflicted wounds from not loving ourselves very well. We can celebrate Christmas by recommitting to the process of inviting unconditional love to melt some of those “frozen” places in us. This journey is long and arduous and may require the help of a therapist or trusted “traveling companion,” but we can recommit to this important journey this Christmas.

A team Member from one of the Cafés in the Network recently shared that a part of her has been frozen in shame for 38 years. She explained that her shame over not being “loving enough” toward her father as he died— shame that had restricted her emotional mobility—has started melting like a glacier. If we want to help heal and transform the world—as all of us want to do—we must prioritize and stay committed to our own inner healing and transformation.

Which brings me to the next, closely related, suggestion for how we can celebrate Christmas. We can nurture that place of unconditional love in ourselves so that more of what we say and do flows from that place of unconditional love. Unless our “doing” in the world flows from our “being” grounded in love it will have limited power to heal and transform. We can nurture that place of unconditional love in us through some intentional, daily practice like prayer, meditation, movement, silence, or simply being fully present to the moment we are living. As you know, Mahatma Gandhi took on the entire British Empire through non-violent resistance and creative activism on behalf of those who were suffering and oppressed. One day, feeling overwhelmed by all the demands on his time and energy he wrote, “I have so much work to do today, I will need to meditate for two hours instead of one.”

Finally, we can celebrate Christmas by pausing and paying close attention to all the “Christmas moments” we experience throughout each day. “Christmas moments” are those moments where love breaks in and wins the battle over fear, shame, bitterness, division, and despair. Friday I had lunch with Jerry, (not his real name) a Member of one of our Seattle Cafés who was hit by a car six months ago while crossing the street at the crosswalk. The impact broke his back resulting in multiple surgeries and excruciating pain. Sitting in his wheelchair, savoring the Christmas lunch lovingly prepared for our Members, he shared, “I cannot hate the driver that changed my life forever. I have to forgive him—and even love him—because that is my path to freedom.” Wow. What a “Christmas moment” that was for me. Another “Christmas moment” came in my recovery circle when a mother, gripped by grief over the sudden death of her 30 year-old son, reminded us, “Life is so very short; there is no time for anything but love.”

Sending love to all of you across the US and Canada, as you pause and pay close attention to all your “Christmas moments.”

We are inspired by all the ways unconditional love is breaking into the world through you and your Café communities, transforming loneliness, hopelessness, and injustice.

Know that you are deeply valued and loved by all of us on the Recovery Café Network team.

— Killian Noe, Founding Director of the RCN