Who's on the fringe of your Christmas?

Keeping watch for the lonely

By Wendy Kittlitz

As we enter into this season of Christmas, I know people have mixed feelings as they anticipate all manner of encounters with family. Some can hardly wait to be together with loved ones to laugh, talk, eat, give and spend quality time with one another.

Others dread the conflict that will accompany the holidays, worrying over choosing which family gatherings to prioritize this year, the craziness of certain relational dynamics, or the poor behaviour of select loved ones, particularly those old enough to know better!

What does it mean to belong to a family – even a family that “has its moments”? As a child, I honestly had times when I wish I could have been anywhere but with my own family at Christmastime. I had trouble feeling like I really belonged. I often felt like I was on the fringe of a group of people who had much in common, yet little in common with me. I was not adopted into my family, but I often felt like I might have been. 

I am reflecting on this experience this year for a variety of reasons. Most poignantly, I am thinking of children struggling in multiple ways to feel like they belong. Some have been in families for years and yet still feel like they are on the outside looking in. Others may have found acceptance and belonging in their families, but due to differences in race or experience or values, find it hard to find a fit in other social settings. I am aware of other children whose families are gone or are far away, and so the Christmas season brings painful acuteness to their need to find a new setting in which to belong. Then there are the children and youth who are still waiting to be enfolded into a forever family – a place where they can begin to develop a sense of belonging, hopefully.

What can we do to help those struggling to feel like they belong?

  1. Ask God to show you someone on the fringes this year, then reach out and do something intentional to pull that person into a circle of belonging.
  2. Go the extra mile to show the person least connected in your own family that they matter (perhaps a single adult, a newly adopted child or a newly widowed grandparent).
  3. Ask yourself if there is a place in your family for a child or young adult who needs to belong. Possibly God is stirring your heart for adoption, but it could also be a call to reach out to an aging-out -of-care teen whom you could support for a season, or to help another adoptive family who could use some extra support. 
  4. Think about starting a ministry in your church in 2015 for those who are lonely.

I can think of few times in the year when loneliness is more acute than at Christmastime. Those of us who have loving families can be so thankful for God’s wonderful gift to us. Those who struggle can look to Him to fulfill the beautiful promise He gave us in Psalm 68:5-6a: “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home . . .” And all of us can ask how God wants to use us to fulfill part of that promise.

Merry Christmas to you and your family from the team at Waiting to Belong!  

Wendy Kittlitz is vice-president of counselling and care ministries for Focus on the Family Canada. She has worked as an adoption professional for 15 years and is also an adoptive mom.