Life is about to get very busy for most of us. The month leading up to December 25 is filled with demands: people want our time, our money, our attention. It can become overwhelming, when it should be the opposite.
Last year, I came up with a plan with my friend Natalie to make sure we were focusing on the positives of the season, not the pressures. Project Nice List was born over coffee dates and presented to Moncton City Council with festive attire and free candy canes. For each day between November 24 and December 24, we used our social media presence to share challenges that built on our sense of community.
We were overwhelmed with the positive response from local friends, families, and organizations that continuously took up the challenges. It seems we weren’t the only ones looking for some guidance to make it through the maze of food and toy drives and charitable donations.
But Project Nice List isn’t just about sharing ongoing fundraisers. It’s about creating our own moments of kindness and caring. Taking time to wear silly hats, make paper snowflakes, and send Christmas cards – and doing these things together. A major theme in many of our challenges has been encouraging each other to connect, both by reaching out to people in your life and by sharing your efforts with the Project Nice List community.
Natalie and I have both been trying to draw attention to the fact that, while we as a community are friendly and enjoy welcoming new people to our part of the country, we are not always good with the follow through.
I’ve written before that I believe Maritimers are great at being friendly, but struggle at becoming new friends. For me, the realization came as someone who moved to the Moncton area from elsewhere in Canada. It’s an experience shared by many other young professionals and families who relocate here. There are lots of great amenities, and people are friendly, but it takes a lot of work and even more luck to form true friendships.
For Natalie, it was a comment by a woman in her Marketing for Immigrant Entrepreneurs workshop: “Canadians smile on the street but they don’t invite us in.” Natalie describes this as one of several unconscious barriers we as Canadian have that keep immigrants from feeling truly at home in our communities.
Project Nice List is one way that Natalie and I are trying to create those opportunities in which friendships can be created and barriers removed. It doesn’t mean we expect you to find a new kindred spirit with every new arrival. But being conscious of the difference between being friendly and being a friend could help us all in our goals to grow Moncton into a thriving community that retains the people it attracts.
The magic of Christmas is within us all. A simple smile can be all it takes to unlock it. This month, please take time to be in the moment, and not caught up in the rush. Invite your neighbours to participate in your joy. Ask what brings them joy and take part in those celebrations. Connect over little moments and build on those to create deeper connections. We will all benefit from strengthening our ties to each other.
I shared these lyrics from a Ken Chisholm tune last year, but I don’t think they can be shared often enough for the message conveyed.
Christmas is a time of joy and sharing
So share your joy with those we need it most
Christmas is a time love and caring
And when you care, sweet love will bless your house