A Christmas Message
I realize that it is late to be posting a Christmas message since Christmas is just a few days away. This should have been posted on Thanksgiving Day, my official beginning of the Christmas season. Of course, if I had followed the retail industry, I would have posted this in July. However, there were more than a few reasons why I didn’t. Christmas means many things to many people. Some get it all right; others get it mostly right. Some get it mostly, if not all, wrong.
Being a Catholic, I obviously have my belief systems and routines that I associate with Christmas. I certainly would not tell others how they should do things. Therefore, I am not going to preach to you too much other than to say that Christmas is all about Christ and He needs to be put in the mix, so to speak. He should be the mix, for that matter. At this time of year, joy spreads, depression increases, wallets thin and parties take place. I won’t harp on commercialism because for one thing, if there were no commercialism, there would be a lot of people out of work. Like it or not, it is a necessity. It is how much of it we indulge in that matters and that is a personal thing. The other reason why I won’t harp on it is because it has been going on since the first slope headed cave man carved a “SALE” sign on a rock. One presumes he was selling fur; there was little else around back then, if you don’t count sin and vice. Then again, what constituted vice back then?
Christ needs to be in Christmas. I learned that lesson long ago. As a child in Catholic school, so much was made of Christmas from the religious point of view. Of course, me being me, I focused on Christmas trees, presents and a week home from school. I was very happy back then, (what the hell happened?) and have so many special Christmas memories. It is not that way today. Sure, being a child has tons of advantages. There is a world less pressure on those tiny shoulders. There are no bills to worry about. A whole life awaits you. However, I still get many presents. Unfortunately, I don’t get too much time off. Working in today’s world is different and working in law enforcement changes things too. What I feel is missing is the religious aspect. But let’s forget about me here.
I was driving to work the other day and since weather conditions were bad, I was going slower than the guy behind me with the four wheel drive truck wanted. When he passed me, he gave me the one finger salute. Well, a few miles up ahead, I saw the “gentleman” standing outside his truck, cell phone next to his ear. The truck, by the way, was buried in a snowdrift. It took every single ounce of discipline in my being to not return the one finger salute. Maybe that was because it was close to Christmas? Perhaps I am evolving? Perhaps it was simply knowing that one of the few true laws of life is that what goes around comes around? I did come close though so I may not be that much more advanced then the slope head with the chisel.
Oddly, after stopping at a store on the way home from work, something extremely unusual happened. While I was in the store, someone bumped into me. I am used to getting dirty looks when something like that happens because, I guess, I should not have been in that person’s air space. To my amazement, the bumper looked at me, smiled and said he was sorry. Then he said: “Have a nice holiday.” That surprised me. Shortly after that encounter, I left the store, got into my car and drove to the exit. As I was sitting there, waiting to make a left, I began planning my next book because I knew I would be sitting there long enough to do the outline, if not the whole book. My life is nothing but a series of left hand turns. I make one going in and somehow, by some force I have yet to discover, I also have to make a left hand turn getting out too. On those rarest of occasions where I need to make the right, I will be behind six cars that have to make the left. Then something amazing happened: someone let me out ahead of him. Where I live, that is no small feat.
This got me thinking a little, something I should do under supervision only. However, what I was thinking about was just how often I was seeing positive signs in people. I though about how people who usually treat me like the plague were suddenly being friendly simple because it is Christmas time. So, that brings me to a question? Why can’t we treat each other decently the other eleven months of the year? Can you imagine the impact that would have on the earth? Perhaps “Peace on earth” would be more than just a line of a song.
It seems that for one small season out of the year, we care for others. In effect, we sometimes let others into our world. Therein lies the problem. God created one world for us to live in. We have created six billion of them at the last count and when they sometimes collide, as they inevitably do, we run into problems. Pettiness, anger, jealousy, greed. The list can go on and on. Compartmentalizing our lives is a necessity, lest we get overrun by the negativity that surrounds us, negativity often of our own making. We all need our little sanctuary, our place where we feel safe. But if we can leave our little worlds and try to be positive people, maybe we would need less time wrapped in our cocoons. It is just a thought. Remember what I said about supervision.
People are more generous that usual at this time of year. Food is collected, toys are collected for needy children and often clothing drives take place. These are wonderfully positive things. It makes such a difference in the lives of many. Why can’t we do this all year round? Yes, there are occasional drives and there are places that collect items throughout the year. However, few participate in these programs. I will say something here that might not sit well with everybody. No one on this planet should go to bed hungry. No one on this planet should have to wear filthy, worn clothing. No one in this world should have to sleep in boxes, freezing half to death. No one on this planet should be denied top-notch health care and no one on this planet should ever be denied life saving or life altering medication. No one. The simple truth in all of this is that we are at fault. Each and every one of us has to share in the blame. We all worry primarily about our own worlds, not the one God gave us. My God, what we could accomplish if we all worked together!
There will always be sadness. On December 7th my brother in law died after a valiant and extremely painful battle with cancer. From the start to the end, eighteen months in total, Tom never gave up. He fought and fought and fought. However, it was not to be and at 5:52 pm, he breathed his last, surrounded by his loving family. Tom was a good man, a caring man. He and his wife, Kathy raised two wonderful boys. The biggest tribute to Tom is that his boys considered him to be their best friend. How many 17 and 16 year old boys feel that way? Not many. Tom was a simple man who overcame tremendous obstacles, the type that knock many down for the count. However, he did what he did for the love of his family. They were always number one in his life. I am obviously biased but I must say that if everyone turned out as well as those boys did, we would have a much better world to live in. Their Mom, Kathy is the second kindest person I have ever met. The first is my wife, Pat. They would give you the shirts of their backs and you wouldn’t have to ask. They would and have, given their last dollar to someone who they felt needed it more than they did. I believe that brand of kindness is in each and every one of us. For whatever reasons, we tend to hide it behind fear, doubt and cynicism. That is such a terrible waste of resources. Tom is gone now, just a few short months after he helped Pat and I move into our new house. I will miss him terribly but nowhere near to the extent that his family will. However, while his body is gone, his memory will linger in our hearts and his legacy will endure. Yes, it can be hard to feel festive after an ordeal such as the death of a loved one. However, since Tom, Kathy and the boys have always lived the spirit of giving, I will too.
I did not tell you the story of Tom’s death to elicit sympathy or so that people will feel sorry for me. I long ago mastered the art of feeling sorry for myself and I have recently raised it to a frighteningly new level. There is another part of the story that must be told. Tom and the family live in a small town in New Jersey. Before his death, there were so many people who tried to help out the family. Tom was able to watch his oldest son’s football game because of the help the family received from friends and the school. I have pictures taken of that day and I never saw Tom look happier. I also never saw him look sicker. As soon as word spread of his death, the entire town mobilized. Food was sent to the family in bunches. Knowing that money was tight, people gave what they could. There were offers of rides should they be needed. There was support from so many people. Shop Rite, where Kathy worked sent her a considerable sum of money. I sat amazed when I saw this. I was watching the type of community that I remembered from my childhood where people cared about their neighbors. It was a heartwarming scene in a heartbreaking story. There are good people in this world. Unfortunately, we too often hide in our own world, oblivious to the needs of those around us until a tragedy occurs and slaps the back of our heads. Just the same, I hope God blesses the town of Emerson and it’s occupants.
God has blessed me in many ways and at this time of the year, it is so important to remember that. We will decorate our tree. We will wrap our presents and sweat out the charge card bills when they inevitably come. We may drink too much and we will surely eat too much. Most importantly, we will keep the true meaning of Christmas alive in our hearts and minds. Life is so filled with ups and downs and it can be a struggle. However, Christmas, if used in the right way, can easy so many of our burdens. It will add a little joy to our difficult lives. So, put up your tree, buy your presents and wrap them. (Preferably not at three o’clock in the morning.) Have your parties, put aside the petty gripes we all have and spread your good will. Show your love for others and try to help out someone less fortunate than yourself. Live Christmas to the fullest. If only we could do it 365 days a year.
To you and yours, have a safe and Happy Holiday.
Thomas R. Cooney FSPP
“Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the new born king!”
© 2003 T. Cooney