As many of us are crawling back into our regular schedules after Thanksgiving, it can be difficult to concentrate on work tasks when our minds are already on the holiday season.  Newly decorated office buildings and lavish downtown Chicago Christmas displays greeted many of us as we commuted to work Monday morning, and I’m willing to bet that some of you couldn’t resist continuing your shopping obsessions online for cyber-Monday as well!

I know it’s been hard for me to focus on work tasks as the weather gets colder, the shopping deals get better and my Type-A personality begins planning holiday festivities with family and friends.  Sometimes I get swept up in the stress of it all and forget to dedicate some time for myself.  Not just quality time with the people I love, but time to learn, reflect and do things I’m passionate about.

I recently read an article in The Onion that declared December National Awareness Month.

“Defined as the ability to realize what one is doing, to whom one is doing it, and what the consequences of doing it or not doing it may be, awareness is considered to be a major factor in a number of modern human endeavors, among them: decision-making, prioritizing, and just basically walking around without always bumping into things.”

Of course, the reason that satire is so effective is that at its heart, there is a grain of truth. Many of us do get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to lose sight of the things that are right in front of us.

It may be an unlikely source, but maybe The Onion has challenged all of us to actually do something important; to take positive steps toward educating ourselves about the world around us, being more aware of our surroundings and the needs in our communities.

This holiday season, glance up and enjoy the brightly colored lights and beautiful decorations. Spend a few moments each day really listening to the people you care about. Don’t forget to look at the city around you; whether or not that may seem uncomfortable at times, it may encourage you to take positive action in your life.

You might find yourself confronted with families who are hungry, seniors who are lonely or adults and children who are in desperate need of more education. But if you look a little further, you may see the ways you can contribute to some of the issues that afflict our neighborhoods. You’ll see two feet, ready to walk alongside a fellow citizen in need; two hands, ready to serve a meal; a voice, ready to speak words of encouragement to a child in need.

May we all become more aware of the needs that surround us this holiday season, because it is only when we choose to see the problems that surround us that we are able to find solutions.

Todays post is from Senior Manager of Education, Alisha G. Flores