“There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name; who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
I still pick out a Christmas gift for my mother every year, even though I haven’t shared the holiday with her in 16 years. I don’t actually buy it or wrap it, but usually in my shopping travels I see something that she would have liked, or just simply experience something that I know she would enjoy. It makes me wonder about what her preferences and likes would have been in this technologically advanced age. I like to imagine her with a smartphone and a Kindle, tagging me in numerous Pinterest posts and commenting on my progress on Goodreads. Its all very much a fantasy, though.
To be honest, I think she would be disappointed with me this year. Try as I might, the events over the last few days, weeks, and months have weighed me down this season, and I just haven’t been able to muster up much Christmas spirit. The tree and the house lights were put up, the cards were sent, but the other customs and staples of the year; the baking, the nativity figurines, the thrill of giving, were glaringly absent. From the outside looking in, I’m sure it seemed like a happy Christmas, but I’m still lacking that renewal of spirit I associate with celebrating the anniversary of a certain child’s birth. I find myself just unable to find the joy in wrapping gifts when I think about those parents and families in Connecticut who won’t have the joy of watching their kids opening their presents Christmas morning. Or make cookies with my own sons and daughter when theirs will never be able to sneak one again, or just simply enjoy licking the spoons. To watch my six year old Monkey catching snowflakes on her tongue in a magical Christmas Eve snow without remembering 20 five and six year olds that will never experience another snowflake. I can’t savor snuggling into bed at night with my husband when neighbors in my town - in my state - have no beds and no homes to gather into. The disparity of so many people banding together to try and make it a wonderful holiday for some, and others setting out to unleash their evil on the civil servants who selflessly sacrifice to help and protect us make it impossible for me to see the hope and goodness in our country. Maybe even in our world. There is so much arguing and blame going on right now. Everyone wants a solution, but nobody wants to work together to really get to the right answer.
This isn’t the world I had in mind to bring my children into. A country that is more invested in their individual right to bear arms, than in seeking to heal the people as a whole through proper health and mental care is not where I want them to grow up. Legislators who are determined to undermine and cut the pay and benefits of educators - the people who have the job of shaping the people who will lead our future - are not the people I want in power over my kids’ learning opportunities. And thinking about those teachers that died, who did the same things that they award medals to soldiers for when in combat, it seems like the biggest insult that they are not supported more by the public, or by our own government. Finally, I can't get those poor parents out of my mind. How many holidays will they spend like me, seeing gift opportunities for someone they can no longer buy for?
The future just looks bleak and unpromising to me. If ever a child’s birth could deliver us from evil, I believe it would need to be now. Searching for that feeling of Christmas while donning a lead mantle of depression is an exhausting and bitter enterprise. And yet.... and yet, even as I go to bed this Christmas night with a heavy heart I keep digging inside myself. For as in the words of Anne Lamott, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”Surely the miracle of the season has planted a seed of hope inside me somewhere. Inside all of us. Somewhere dormant and ready to bloom in the light of the morning.