There is something that lasts months, years, even a lifetime after our annual holiday celebrations: warm memories with family and the people who have shaped our lives.

Even after gift paper sticky with tape has been swept from the floor, eggnog is nowhere to be found in the refrigerator, the smell of gingerbread no longer lingers in the kitchen and toys that once induced squeals of excitement lie broken or forgotten as so often happens, our memories with loved ones endure.

Holiday cheer is in the air and with it, that warm fuzzy feeling that isn’t just from those fluffy slippers and cozy, hot beverages.

In the season of gift giving and great food, it takes a conscious effort to recognize that it is not in the things but rather in the experiences and memories made that brings real happiness.

We enjoy receiving “stuff” from our family and friends, but things ultimately grow old and fall apart. Children lose attention with their once shiny new toys; clothes fall out of fashion and soon, new technology makes your smartphone look like it emerged from the dark ages.

Researchers are finding that it is not “things” that ultimately bring us happiness; happiness is developed in the experiences we have, especially the experiences of service to others.

Researchers are finding that it is not “things” that ultimately bring us happiness; happiness is developed in the experiences we have, not in the objects we possess.

Even a child can see that the joy on other peoples’ faces is a memory that will leave an imprint far longer than any gift unwrapping session.

It is in our experiences that we create lifelong memories. It is these memories that we can always look back on for guidance, comfort, or resolve to overcome the challenges ahead of us.

We encourage you to take time to plan a family tradition that involves serving those in your community as part of your greater, extended family.

This holiday season, we encourage you to take time to plan a family tradition that involves serving those in your community as part of your greater, extended family. Seek out transformative, meaningful experiences and relationships through seeking to serve the needs of others – weaving rich colors into the tapestry of your life to last well beyond the season. Serving others is a gift that keeps giving.

After all, it is in challenging experiences that many people find their true potential as well as draw together in support, sorrow, joy and laughter. Your experiences in the family, piece by piece, will define who you are: growing your character and developing the social, physical, and emotional skills that serve you throughout your life.

This year, and every year, remember to create memories, not just lists. Share in the experience of serving others with your family and discover a joy that lasts longer than the temporary excitement of unwrapping your own gifts.

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