What is your favorite time of the year? Some will claim it's summer, while others say springtime. For a good many people, though, the time of the Holidays is particularly special.
For the purpose of this discussion we're going to focus on the Christian holiday known as Christmas, although the expression "Christmastime" has become synonymous with the more general and non-denominational "The Holidays," and has come to mean the last few weeks of the calendar year.
As a child, this time is a relief from school...visiting with family and hanging out with friends...and of course, the presents! But, as one grows older and becomes more in tune with the world around oneself, this season begins to take on different meanings. There is the longing for friends and loved ones no longer with us (due to their passing or moving away)...the sadness in the reflection of a life unfulfilled or much different than we expected...the injustices and inequalities we see in the world around us.
Those of us raised as Christians--or even, just as thinking, feeing human beings-- start to develop questions.
"How", we ask..."how can there still be these things? Isn't this supposed to be the Celebration of the Birth of the Saviour, a happy and joyous time? How can I be truly happy when war exists, when racial inequality exists, when there are families that don't have enough money for food, yet alone gifts for their children? When in our own Nation there is a city--devasted by the worst natural disaster in our history--full of suffering people that the Government has apparently forgotten about...people without the most basic elements required for survival, like safe water to drink and food to eat, and electricity?"
It is a sad fact that there are more suicides during this time of year than at any other….brought on by loneliness? Disgust? A feeling that one's life, one's ambitions and dreams are unimportant, that no one else really cares or gives a damn at all…even, possibly, the Almighty?
One man understood those thoughts of despair, but he continued to have hope.
"And so this is Christmas...and what have you done? Another year over, and a New One just begun...."
John Lennon wrote those words (from "Happy Christmas [War is Over]") more than 40 years ago, and he is one of those departed whose vision and presence we especially miss this time of year, and always. In a sort of wonderful irony, I don't believe he ever thought it would become a Christmas song in its own right.
He envisioned a world where such things as want and need and hunger and starvation and war and pain and suffering did not exist...where we could all work together to achieve a common good. We are inching our way to that point, but slowly. More slowly than most of us would like to happen.
So perhaps the answer to some sort of happiness this time of year lies in what Lennon said at the end of "Imagine":
"You can say that I'm a dreamer...but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us...and the world can live as one."
Do what you can. If you can give some of your time or resources to a charity, do so. Make that long-distance call to that friend or loved one far away. Drop some dollar bills or spare change in a Salvation Army red bucket. Give some cans of food to a Food Drive. Go out and marvel at Christmas lights...and look to the sky and stars in wonder and give thanks for what you do have and what changes you can make--or what help you can give--however small. Because it's all a start toward that goal.
And you know what's been said...you build a house--or a better world--one step at a time.
Merry Christmas. Strive to be happy.