Christmas. It’s everywhere: in the streets, the stores, on the radio and TV, in restaurants and our offices spaces. I challenge you to go through one hour of your day without interacting with a Christmas symbol.

Personally, I get great satisfaction from the symbols that identify the season as Christmas season. I’m Christian and for me the pervasiveness of Christmas symbols means many things – celebrating my faith, spending time with family, appreciating friendships, sharing and giving what has been provided to us with others. I relish the reminders of faith and the magic of traditions.

Yet, squirming inside of me is a quiet discomfort. I am aware of the fact that some of my friends and colleagues are not Christian and yet they walk down the same streets, enter the same restaurants, stores and coffee shops. Some walk through the same office doors and are greeted by a Christmas tree.

Stick with me here…

I firmly believe we all deserve the right to express, celebrate and share our culture, religion and beliefs. Because America is predominantly Christian the expression of Christmas pervades our daily experiences at this time of year.

Just for a minute, think about a time when you felt different from others, when you didn’t fit in, when you just weren’t a part of the “group.” Maybe you didn’t make a team you tried out for. Maybe you were: a woman in a board meeting full of men, overweight in an exercise class of “fit” participants, brown in a sea of white or white in a sea of brown, the new student at school, or a foreigner that didn’t speak the native language.

Reflect on what that experience felt like for you. Did you feel a little uncomfortable? A little lonely, a little anxiety, a little fear, a little self-conscious, a little frustrated? Catalogue those feelings. Now consider what a non-Christian might be feeling at this time of year. Grow in your empathy.

And by all means, don’t stifle your celebrations or your expressions of faith, but be aware that others might not be viewing them through the same lens. Recognize how you can share the compassion and positivity of the season by validating those who might be “other” in the great celebration called Christmas.