Why can’t everyday be Christmas? I state that here at the end of Christmas, 2003. I know that many of you are just happy that it is almost over. For many, Christmas is a high-pressure time. What should be a joyous time become fraught with anxiety, fear and in some cases, depression. It is not meant to be that way. For openers, Christmas is about Jesus. If you take Him out of the equation, there is no such thing as Christmas. Don’t worry; this is not going to be an article that browbeats you with religion. I simply needed to make that statement up front. Having said that, we can move on.
The decorations are a wonderful thing. They add beauty and spirit to the season. They should not be a source of tension. However, we live in harried times and for so many, there simply is not a lot of time in the day to do the things we want to do. Thus, decorating can seem to be a chore rather than a fun activity. I kept Newtown’s Law of Physics in my mind this year when I started decorating: “What goes up must come down.” In other words, worse that putting up the decorations is taking them down. There is something so sad about that. I sometimes think that what makes putting them up difficult is knowing that you have to take them down. Maybe it is because those decorations are the symbol of a joyous, festive time now ended. Therein is my first point. Why should we only be festive one month out of the year?
We create our own festivity. Yet why do we only do that in December? The spirit of festivity comes from the heart, not from the store. However, there is something different that happens at Christmas time, something that does not happen much the rest of the year. Are you ready for this? You see, at Christmas time, we put ourselves in the background and begin to care more about others. That is the key ingredient. That is what makes Christmas so special. We begin to think more about others that we do ourselves. We even start to think nice things about people we do not like. Therein is my second point. Why don’t we try to like difficult people all year long?
Yes, Christmas is the one time each year where we show that we really care about others. Do we lament the end of the season because we realize it means a return to darkness, to cold? Are all the fun things over until spring begins to enliven us? Do we lament it because it is a return to our eleven months of selfishness and bitterness? Therein is my third point. We create our selfishness and we sure as hell create our bitterness. Why do we only hide it one month of the year?
To me, New Years Eve and day are rather depressing. I have figured out that the depression comes the realization that our joy is over. It is the last party for a long time. Yet it does not have to be that way. There are many wise people in this world who know how to do it right. They know how to care about others all of the time. They believe in having parties for the sake of having parties. That is not such a bad idea, is it?
I used to be one of those who totally lost the spirit of Christmas. I stopped thinking about a manger in Bethlehem. To me, Christmas was something to be tolerated and survived. It meant shopping, spending money I really did not have and it meant depression. It brought out all of the loneliness that I tried to hide all year. It made me acutely aware of those who had passed away and who I missed terribly. It brought back happy memories that became sad because that is all they were: memories. I don’t feel that way today. I hope I never do again. I know better than to tempt the gods, so to speak. If I say that I will never feel like that again, something terrible may happen to make me eat those words next year. Yes, that is a fear of mine. I am no more enlightened than you. Knowing as much as I do about the spirit world has not taught how to live in the physical one. I am no better at it than most people, arguably less than most. However, this year I enjoyed it, despite the loss of a loved one and the pain it brought to those so close to me.
I hope to do better next year. Hopefully there will be no tragedies, no loss of life. I will try to embrace it and cherish it, however difficult that may be depending on the circumstances of life at the time. However, I make no promises. I will promise this much, I will try to live Christmas each and every day of the coming year. I made a New Years resolution this year and I started it immediately. I will try to be nice to everyone this year, even those who are so difficult to like. It takes too much energy to hate and hold bitterness. Hate consumes the person who feels it. Hate, although very human, was not created by God. We did that to ourselves, with a little help from the one down below. We are easily corrupted. Too easily corrupted.
We have it within ourselves to be good. We know the way. Why we don’t do it is beyond me. Ordinarily I would say that is the nature of man but that is not true. We are better than that and we prove that once a year. Can you imagine what it would be like if every one of us tried to be nice to each other every day? There was just a devastating earthquake in Iran. Body counts are still coming in and in the end, they will be enormous. Immediately, many countries, including our own offered help. That shows that we have it in us to be good, to do the right thing. We stopped talking about nuclear programs and weapons inspectors and offered help. Perhaps our human nature is good, after all. How is that for a concept? We can hate a person one day but be willing to help them the next. Yep, Satan must love that. So you see, we do have it in us. Therein is another point. Why do we only offer help in the wake of tragedy? I wish I had the answer for that. I wish I could say something here that would ring true to enough people to cause a shift in the balance, a change in the mass perception. Who am I to think such things? Well, could we at least try?
Suppose I told you that you were stupid. You would be offended, right? I should hope so. Yet doesn’t it come down to stupidity? To know how to live right and not do it is the ultimate act of stupidity. Yet we do not consider ourselves stupid people. We are good people who do stupid things. Ok, I can buy that. However, failure to change is what is stupid. I believe that most people really do try to live their lives as well as they can. In some cases, we get it right. Most of the time, I would say. However, we are all subjected to fear and that is what causes most of our problems. Our fear of life is what motivates us. We fear poverty. We fear ill health. We fear loneliness. We fear sex or the lack of it as if that were the deciding factor in our lives. It is those fears that shape us and motivate us. We are motivated to avoid what we do not want to become rather than be motivated by what we want to be. Ultimately we fear that we are doing it all wrong. Sometimes we are right.
We live in a time of great anxiety. Evil is doing its best to make it mark felt in all areas of life. Most of us believe there will be another major terrorist attack sometime soon. What we once thought was inconceivable is now expected. We fear it; we brace for it. We exhale a collective sigh of relief when a holiday or special day passes without an incident. However, we no longer breathe free because we know something is coming. We just don’t know when and we will never understand why. Right now, we just survived the New Year. On January 1st, we breathed a collective sigh of relief that no terror attacks took place. We recently learned the New York was braced for what we call a dirty bomb, one that has some form of radiation that would be dispersed when the bomb exploded. There were actually nuclear scientists mixed in with the revelers in Times Square. They were carrying small radiation detectors. We are not talking about natural catastrophes here. The abominable part of this is that it is all of our own doing. We are doing this to ourselves. Why do we hate so much? We hear so much chatter about missions for God, as if we had a God who wanted us to destroy each other. He created us, why would He want us to destroy each other? Perhaps Satan is alive and well. Too bad we cannot all stand up collectively and say: “Screw you.” Why do we so easily do his will and not even realize it? We kill for God; we kill for land. We kill for love. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
There are those who want to destroy us because they do not like our way of life. In truth, they want to destroy us because they do not have our way of life. If they cannot have it, why should we? That appears to be the thinking. It is the thinking of poisoned minds. Who poisoned them? The answer should be obvious. Mankind feels this need to hate. To a large extent, people take pride in their ability to hate, to hurt, to be mean. Sometimes I think we surprise ourselves by our abilities. Congratulations. We were taught to hate and we teach it to our children. There are schools in this world that teach children to hate other races. Americans are bad. They are evil. This is the doctrine. This is evil. The Middle East is an example. Over there, each country seems to hate every other country. The only common bond is their hatred of Israel. They scream and shout about peace but whenever anyone offers a plan for peace, the response is a suicide bomber on a crowded bus. It would be laughable were it not so horrific.
Yet, on our own shores, in our own homes we teach hatred. It may be hatred of a neighbor. It may be hatred of a coworker. It may be hatred of ourselves. Yes, we teach that too when we become bitter or we try to drink our problems away or we show indifference to our fellow man. Our crime rate is unbelievable. Where crime was once an aberration, it now is the norm. Entire neighborhoods live under siege. People readily kill for clothes or a radio. They kill for drugs. To many, killing a person is as easy and forgettable as swatting a fly. What this does is spawn hate. It hardens even the nicest person. We see so much violence, so much suffering that we desensitize ourselves as a coping mechanism.
Am I above all this? No and neither are you. Nor is anyone else on this planet. In a sense, we are all terrorists, just on a smaller stage. Hate hurts the hater but it can also hurt the hated. It is such a useless emotion. However, it is a dangerous one indeed. Ultimately, it will be a fatal one. One hope of mine is that one day, everyone will awaken, look in their mirror and see themselves for exactly who they are. For many it will be a positive experience. For others it will not. For all, it will be illuminating. Let the good see themselves as good. Let the terrorists see themselves as terrorists. We will need God’s help on that.
However, there is so much we can do. It is easy enough to criticize, so easy in fact. But to criticize without offering a solution is grossly unfair. We have what we need to help correct this. We have all the tools we need to make a difference. God gave us those at birth. We have each other and we have a God that loves us. People are our greatest resource. We are the fertile yet untapped resource. In truth, we simply need each other. In the past, there was a sense of community that is sorely missing in these rushed times. Today, so many of us live anonymous lives even though we are surrounded by others. We may wave a greeting every so often but we do not act like a community. We are too busy living frenetic lives, lives which we have begun to believe are meaningless. They are. We rush to and fro to work. We rush the kids to school. We rush to the stores. We rush and rush and go nowhere. We are little more than dogs chasing our tales. In my Christmas article, I pointed out how a small community in New Jersey came together to help a family in mourning. It was truly inspiring to me and I have to say that a lot of what I feel now is because of them. Yes, I too am bitter and self-obsessed, just like most of us. I too began to believe that no one cared anymore, that we were drowning in a pool of apathy. However, that changed when I saw this community come together.
It used to always be that way. In the past, you could count on it. Today it is noteworthy because it is so rare. It shouldn’t be. We can no longer afford to let the streets raise our children. It is sickeningly obvious how poorly that has worked out. Two income families are the norm and a necessity in most cases. That being the case, we have to find a way of overcoming the problems associated with it. We cannot afford to ignore the problem any longer. Children need direction. Hell, most adults do for that matter. We have slipped into this problem with no thoughts about the consequences. If parents are not raising their children, who is?
Everyone is quick to blame the school system for their children’s struggles. Yet how many of those who blame the school system actually work with their children? How many of them help their children with homework? The first and primary teachers in a child’s life must be the parents. Unless there can be one on one attention in school, an obvious impossibility, the parents must assume the role of teacher. Being too tired from a days work is not an acceptable answer.
Another big issue is role models. Athletic figures should not be role models. It is unfair to them and it is unfair to the child. You should not consider someone a role model because he can hit forty home runs a year. A person who averages twenty points a game in basketball should not be a role model. The problem is they have little if anything to offer a child. So many grow up worshipping themselves and money and little more. We are outraged when an athlete is arrested for drug possession or some other crime. We say things like: “This is such a shame, he’s supposed to be a role model for children.” Well, guess what, they’re not or at least they shouldn’t be. They are overgrown people who have been pampered for most of their lives and as such, since they are used to being handed everything they have ever wanted, they live in a make believe world, a world of parties, of riches, a world the rest of us will never see. They should be enjoyed for their athletic abilities but they should not automatically become role models. That job belongs to parents. They should be their children’s role models. Let’s bring it back home where it belongs.
Gone for the most part are the old block parties that neighborhoods cherished. They were the great summer party that often galvanized a whole area. Those little parties did so much to help neighborhoods flourish. In some of those very neighborhoods where the parties used to be a constant, the residents are afraid to be out after dark, let alone throw a party. Today, there is gang violence everywhere and it flourishes because of fear and apathy. Gangs have taken the streets by default because so few cared. Nature abhors a vacuum and it does not take long for evil to jump in where decent people have left.
It was not designed to work this way. The formula called for success but somehow, we screwed it up. The world does not have to be this way. It was not designed to work this way. The formula called for success but somehow, we screwed it up. It can be made to work and work well if we would only work together. We know that. We have proven that. We do it once a year. It all started in a manger in Bethlehem. Why can’t everyday be Christmas?
© 2004 T. Cooney