Happy New Year!
Today is the day our family chooses our Family Compassion Focus. We brainstormed a week ago. Had the list up on the fridge since then. And today we will vote.
There is no exact science to this. It should be fun. I hope it feels special. Here is how Team Fritz does it.
1. We order Chinese Food for dinner. Long ago my parents took authentic Chinese cooking classes and organized elaborate progressive dinners for a big neighborhood Chinese New Year’s Parties (some time between mid-January and February). Since then I always crave Chinese food on any day celebrating a “New Year.” Take out is great because we’re normally pretty tired after being up so late. And asian food is ideal for my sad gluten-free requirements.
The goal is to have a fun meal that everyone will enjoy. A private, special dinner party for the people in your home. What food will cause the least amount of fussing? Is it better to go out to eat? Would you prefer to cook a family favorite? Do what works.
2. We set the table. Because we want this to be a memorable event we set the table with care. Last year I put out candles, beaded garlands, and crystal flutes for champagne and sparkling cider. If that’s too much work, just grab the paper plates and cans of pop. Or go out somewhere where you can relax. We open up the take out containers, thank God for the food and each other and get started.
3. [optional] We have a talk. Last year we all answered a list of questions with serious and silly goals for the new year (New Year’s Day Questions 2014). This maybe takes 15 minutes. We wrote down the answers and put them in the 2014 binder. Oh, how I love a good binder.
Going with the Chinese take-out theme, in past years I cut out the lines in this document (new years day blessings and fortunes), rolled them up, and put them in a vase or pitcher. It gets passed around and everyone gets a profound truth and a hopeful blessing for the new year. I know some people get hung up about “fortunes.” The things I list are innocent and fun.
4. [optional] We pick a word. We asked last year “what one word describes your hopes for 2014.” That was a bit deep for our 5 year old. We gave examples like, “I get too serious, I think I’d like my word to be Play” and “Your name means Pearl. What if this year you began to understand how beautiful and precious you were? Like a pearl?” We had blank paper and markers nearby and wrote out our words in kind of artistic ways. Different family members got more into it than others. This also took about 10-15 minutes. If no one likes coloring it will take 5 minutes. (And I put these in the binder, too.)
3. We review the list. We read every word on the list we brainstormed. We seek more information saying, “tell me more about this” and “how did you get this idea, buddy?” and “where did you hear about this?” We ask if anyone has any more ideas. We assure them it’s not too late. It’s a time of listening, eye contact, affirmation, and validation. Everyone in the family is learning that they have good ideas, they can share and explain them, and that they are valuable.
4. We vote. We hand out pieces of paper and ask the kids to write their top 3 choices. If they cannot write we help them, whispering and making it feel very important. Chris quietly tallies the votes and announces the winner we great fanfare. This takes less than 5 minutes.
Other options: (1) You could raise your hands to vote. Our family can’t because we are very sensitive and very competitive (great combo!). Too many feelings would be hurt. (2) Everyone could just vote for one thing, but sometimes there are as many different votes as people. (3) If you just have little ones, like preschool and younger, you could ask them what they want to do and just do it.
Please note: All families are different. We have had tears and/or anger on election day because someone’s top choice wasn’t picked. We have had confusion because a child “never understood what that thing was about anyway.” Maybe it’s a slam-dunk and everyone is excited. Whatever happens with your family, please be a gracious role model. I definitely didn’t want to do Clean Water in 2013 and had zero knowledge about it. I may have quietly sighed. But I smiled and said “It’s going to be a good year. We are going to learn tons of new stuff!” If a kid doesn’t react well, please no shaming. Hopefully a quiet hug, or following them to another room, or coloring with the markers that are still out will help. Grace upon grace.
5. We celebrate. Most of the time everyone is excited. It’s a special night, we’re all together, no one is on their phones, we’re listening, we’re eating good food. We are a little silly. Standing on chairs and cheering is encouraged. Dance parties start. Last year we used the disco ball Greta got for Christmas and danced to James Brown.
6. [optional] We pray. In the middle of the revelry. Kind of like on an election night when the winner wants to give her acceptance speech and the crowd won’t stop cheering. We quickly pray, “Jesus, our new Compassion Focus is ________. We don’t really know what this means or what you’d like us to do, but we know it’s going to be good. We’re on the look out for your ideas. Use us in your world. Thank you for letting us be a part of it. Amen.” Then there is normally more hugging and dancing, and sometimes more coloring.
Like I said, there are a gazillion ways to do this. And they would all be great. Please share your plans and/or how it went with us in the comments.
Our first Compassion Focus was fast and impromptu. You can read about it in our Origin Story. And for an overview of what a year of focusing on Compassion might look like, there is a 2 page overview here.
You are loved.
© Aimee Fritz and Family Compassion Focus, 2014-2015.