As we head into the height of the holiday season, many of us are excited about taking a few days off work, spending time with our families, and enjoying fun activities and traditions. This is a good thing. We are so fortunate to get to have these meaningful experiences.

But let’s take a moment to thank those who must work: physicians, nurses, healthcare staff, first responders, servers in restaurants, airline employees, military personnel, clergy members, and so forth.

I think of these people as holiday essential workers. We are grateful for them all year long, but we need to be especially thankful that they give up their own festivities and family togetherness so that our lives can be safer, better, and more comfortable during this special time.

There are many ways to show our gratitude.

For example, we can say thank you to those who serve us in restaurants, stores, hospitals, and other places.

We can pause long enough to be a kind and patient customer rather than being hurried and stressed as many tend to be this time of year.

We can call up friends and family members who must work and tell them how much we love and appreciate them. Or we can send a handwritten letter (I find these are cherished for years).

We can be flexible with our own holiday celebrations so that friends and family who must work on Christmas or New Year’s Eve can join us. (Who cares what the calendar says?)

We can make time to celebrate the season on a day that works for the loved one. Invite them out for a nice meal or treat them to a cup of coffee. 

We can ask a loved one who has to work how we might help make their lives easier. For example, we could offer to run an errand for them or bring them a plate from a family dinner they must miss.

The holidays are about showing others that we love and value them. There are endless ways to do this. Be creative and tailor your efforts to what you know will resonate with the person. Mostly, be sincere. The time, effort, and thought you put in are the most meaningful gifts of all.