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Building Bridges by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante    

What’s on your wish list?

by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante

Another year has gone by, and I find myself wondering, “Where did 2021 go?” Even with ongoing concerns about the pandemic, life is continuing as we adjust, adapt, and go about our lives.

With the holiday season fast approaching, many of us want to close out another year with a sense of meaning, peace, and hope.

And for the second year in a row, there must be considerations for safety. According to, current public health guidelines state:

Manitobans, and those visiting from out of province, are strongly encouraged to focus on the fundamentals to help stop the spread of COVID-19. This includes:

  • Staying home if you’re sick, even if your symptoms are only mild.
  • Washing/sanitizing your hands frequently.
  • Covering your cough.
  • Practicing physical distancing when you are with people outside of your household.
  • Wearing a mask in indoor public spaces, or in other situations required by public health orders, and recommended outdoors where you cannot physically distance.
  • Get the COVID-19 vaccine at a location near you.

For full details on what fully vaccinated Manitobans and unvaccinated Manitoban must abide by, visit

Let’s shift our focus back to what brings us meaning, peace, and hope this holiday season. So much focus can be on finding the right presents, making the perfect dinner, and putting up beautiful decorations. But what I have noticed in my counselling career, is that what really matters are the relationships with others.

I’ve heard many stories of emotional pain that come from times of disagreements or misunderstandings with family or friends. And I’ve also heard stories of kindness, gratefulness, and forgiveness. At the end of these stories of hurt and love, people hardly ever tell me that they wish for a material gift from someone. If I had to sum it up, the ultimate wish list would actually be quality time.

Quality time

Children may say that they want the latest game console or clothing trend. But as adults, when they look back to their childhoods, they often tell me that they wish their parents had talked to them more. If a loved one has died, spouses, parents, children, and close friends will often wish that they had “just one more minute” with that person.

Knowing this, what would you choose to focus on this season? One thing on your list could be to go for a walk with a loved one or call them to chat.

Kind gestures

An expensive present is hardly ever as meaningful as a gift or gesture that takes a lot of thought. Preparing breakfast in bed for someone, shovelling a neighbour’s driveway, dropping off frozen meals, or offering to babysit can go a long way.


With work, school, and family commitments, it can be hard to find time to give someone attention. There are so many distractions in our lives that calling someone to say, “Hello, how are you doing?” can seem like an impossible feat. One tip that one spouse told me is that he tries to send at least three texts to his wife every day that say, “Thinking of you” or “I hope you’re having a good day.” One parent I know leaves “I love you” notes in her kids’ lunch kits. It’s always the little things that mean the most.


When we have conversations with people, most of the time we are in our own heads planning what our next words are going to be, rather than fully paying attention to what the person is saying. We often prepare our next point of debate or words of advice or a story of “when that happened to me.” But the truth is, people feel better when they feel understood and heard. When feelings are validated rather than ignored or minimized, people can move forward from a problem more easily. So, when someone is telling you about their day or a dilemma, make a conscious effort not to say much. Look them in the eyes and offer a smile of encouragement. Let them talk. It may mean more to say, “Wow that’s sounds so hard,” rather than “What you should really do is this…”

Words of love

Expressing love never has to be complicated. The simplest phrases can mean the world to someone if they are heartfelt, and these include:

  • “I love you.”
  • “I’m sorry.”
  • “I’m proud of you.”
  • “I’m here for you.”
  • “I’m listening.”
  • “I understand.”
  • A hug.

Sometimes, no words are called for at all. When we see a distressed child, we instinctively know what to do. We will pick them up, hold them and tell them that everything will be okay. Yet somewhere along the way, we sometimes forget how to console adults. We try to give advice or worse, words of shame or guilt. Putting aside the “I told you so” and just giving that loved one a hug could be all that they need.

So, as you plan out your Christmas shopping list this year, it may be worthwhile to give these ideas a thought. Not only could you be giving a more meaningful gift this year, but you might also be receiving one in return too.

Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.

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