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Maria’s Sunday Paper: What I’m Hoping to Do More of This Holiday Season

This week, I’ve been thinking, feeling, watching, listening, and taking stock of my life. It’s been hard not to do this, as I’ve spent time unpacking all of the items that I packed up while preparing to evacuate from the wildfires.

I’ve been taking stock not just of the “stuff” in my life, but of what’s really important to me these days. On Monday, I sat down with my friend Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow, who has devoted his life to studying the places on earth where people are healthiest and happiest. Our conversation really got me thinking deeper about what I value and whether I’m really leading a life where my values line up with my actions. (You can watch our conversation below.)

The news of this week also got me feeling and thinking about my values, and about what we value as a country. On Wednesday, I felt joyful when I heard about the large turnout of voters in Alabama, and about the powerful impact that black voters had, in particular. The people are awake! What a powerful reminder that a vote can disrupt the status quo. It’s also a reminder that the people have a voice, and that they want to be heard. As Kaushana Cauley wrote in the NY Times this week, if the Democrats want to win more elections like this one, then “they have to integrate black voters into the heart and soul of the party.”

Speaking of status quo, on Thursday I was saddened to think about how we haven’t been able to disrupt the status quo when it comes to gun violence in this country. As we observed the 5-year anniversary of Sandy Hook, I thought about the grief those families still deal with on a daily (if not hourly) basis. It must be so overwhelming. Then, for them to see us as a nation still deadlocked when it comes to sensible gun reform… it just breaks my heart and enrages me all at the same time. I also thought this week about the parents of Newtown who took this tragedy and used it as a call to action to try and do something to stop this senseless violence. Mothers like Nicole Hockley, Alissa Parker and Scarlett Lewis, all whose voices I’ve shared in The Sunday Paper with you before. Their strength and determination give me hope for the future.

On any given day or week, joy, grief, sadness, anger, and reflection can all go hand in hand. Such is life, I tell my children. I counsel them to understand that they must be adept at these emotions if they expect to live a full life and/or get anything done in life.

This is also is one of the reasons that every year during the holiday season, I make it one of my traditions to sit down with my kids and our friend, the pastor Chad Veach, to connect and take stock. I’ll be speaking with him again on Monday, and will share our conversation with you in next week’s Sunday Paper.

We all need to take stock of our lives, our priorities, our goals, our dreams, and of who and what we value. As we enter this season, it’s a way for us to connect and, I hope, focus on what’s important to one another.

It’s also a chance for us to listen. It’s a chance for us to hear, in a safe environment, about the struggles, the triumphs, the anger, the joy, and the grief that we may be feeling. It’s a moment for us to talk about what’s working and what’s not, and about how we might each connect better to one another.

This is what I’m hoping all of us might be able to think about doing over this holiday season. How might we do a better job connecting to one another? How might we all pull up a chair, like Joe Biden did this week when Megan McCain was overcome with emotion regarding her father? Joe Biden pulled up a chair and he connected. He moved in with compassion and strength. What a powerful move it was.

So, as we move into the holidays and into a new year, I’m going to be thinking about where I can use my voice to upend the status quo. I’m going to be thinking about when and where I can pull up a chair. I’m going to be thinking about where I can move in to listen, to comfort, and to connect with another.

At the end of the day, these are the moves that Move Humanity Forward.


Want to receive Maria’s perspective, as well as other inspirational content, in your inbox each week? Sign up to receive Maria’s Sunday Paper newsletter by clicking HERE.

P.S. For more of what “I’ve Been Thinking,” I hope you’ll check out my upcoming book, “I’ve Been Thinking…: Reflections, Prayers and Meditations for a Meaningful Life.” It’s available for pre-order now. I was inspired to write it thanks to all of the positive feedback I receive from you, readers of The Sunday Paper, each week. So, thank you. I love being in community with you.



HOW TO CONNECT TO YOUR INNER PEACE AMIDST THE HOLIDAY MADNESS: My dear friend, Architect of Change Elizabeth Lesser, understands the pressures many of us experience during the holidays. That’s why I was thrilled when she offered us her insight on how we can all find calm during this often stressful time. 


WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THE HAPPIEST PLACES ON EARTH: I always learn something new and fascinating from my friend, Architect of Change Dan Buettner. This week he stopped by to discuss his latest book, The Blue Zones of Happiness, and what he’s learned by studying the regions of the world that have been measured to have the most enduring happiness.  


A REMINDER TO US ALL: KINDNESS IS NOT A SEASONAL BRAND: My friend Patti Peterson writes a timely and insightful observation about why it’s problematic that we only seem to emphasize kindness as a virtue during the holidays. She offers guidance on how we can practice compassion year-round. 


A HOLIDAY GUIDE FOR A GOOD CAUSE: If you’ve been touched by the Architects of Change we’ve featured in The Sunday Paper this year, then may we encourage you to consider them when making your charitable giving this holiday season. We’ve certainly met some extraordinary individuals this year who have devoted their lives to moving humanity forward. Here are 10 for you to consider this season. 


CONNECTING YOUR KIDS TO THE SPIRIT OF KINDNESS THIS SEASON: Architect of Change Tyler Knott has made a special connection to his legions of loyal followers on Instagram through his creative poetry, haiku, and photography. He and his partner, Sarah Linden, recently co-authored a holiday book entitled, “North Pole Ninja: Mission Christmas,” which serves to inspire kids to perform daily acts of kindness. Today, he shares a powerful, exclusive essay about how he hopes to use his voice to try and restructure the way kids and their parents look at the holiday season. 


1. FORMER FACEBOOK EXEC: SITE IS “RIPPING APART THE SOCIAL FABRIC OF HOW SOCIETY WORKS:” As we talk about how we connect to one another, I think it’s worth considering how social media is playing a role in the matter. I thought it was incredibly bold this week for former Facebook exec Chamath Palihapitiya to admit that he feels “tremendous guilt” about what he helped create. 

I was disappointed that the Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to repeal net neutrality protections. No matter how you feel about the Internet, the bottom line is that it’s a powerful tool and we should make all content of equal access to everyone. This decision puts that at risk.  

3. MERRIAM-WEBSTER NAMES ‘FEMINISM’ THE WORD OF THE YEAR:  I think it’s cool that this year, when more and more women are speaking up and taking a stand, the famed dictionary has recognized the power of the word “feminism” to our cultural vernacular. 

4. ERASING THE STIGMA OF TEENAGE DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY: A disturbing statistic has emerged to the forefront. The Centers for Disease Control reports that one in five kids has a mental disorder ranging from ADHD to severe depression to anxiety. The Today Show reported this week on how one family dealt with their own child’s anxiety and how they hope to help others like them. 

5. YOUNG BOY COLLECTS 1,000 TOYS FOR KIDS IN PUERTO RICO: Talk about reaching out and connecting with those who need it. I was so touched by the selfless act accomplished by Jayden Perez of New Jersey, who took it upon himself to collect toys to make sure that children in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico had toys for Christmas this year. 


I love the words of Pema Chodron, an ordained nun and an American Tibetan Buddhist. In this excerpt from her book, “The Wisdom of No Escape: And the Path of Loving Kindness,” she reminds us that to truly connect with others and accept them for who they are, we must learn to connect with the present moment and accept what is.



Get Empowered. Pass It Forward.

We’re so excited to announce that we’ve added a few new items to our shop! Check out our stylish apparel to fight Alzheimer’s, created in partnership with Art With a Purpose. You can also order our newest product, the “Maria” candle – the same scent used in her office and home. Visit the shop on to learn more.

Also, now through the end of December: every time you purchase from Rivet Revolution’s “WAM Band Collection,” $20 will be donated to The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, courtesy of our partners at Rivet and Home Care Assistance. Get yours today and give this gift for a good cause.



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