Joy and Giving: The Essence of Christmas

By Philip Case, Published:

Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

Not long now until, arguably for lots of us, we will celebrate the greatest day of the year toward the end of the greatest month of the year. Not that it’s always the best weatherwise, but regarding the holiday let me end this series of columns where I began a few weeks ago with a quote from Charles Dickens’ immortal “A Christmas Carol.”

Here’s the scene: Scrooge’s nephew Fred is making one last plea for his Uncle Ebenezer to join him, his wife and friends for Christmas dinner and toward the end of that eloquent speech he says he sees Christmas …

“… as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

Or we might summarize: Rich or poor, we’re all on the same trip.

This entire month seems to find lots of folks a little merrier, perhaps a bit more caring and generous. It’s a time when we drop some change in the kettles of the Salvation Army bell ringers at the grocery stores, hum a little Christmas tune, perhaps sing “Joy to the World” a bit too loudly at church, even if we can’t sing too good!

We just generally give a bit more of ourselves than we do, say, on the 25th of March or the 12th of May, just to pick random dates.

Here on this page and on the second page of today’s Spectrum section, we have reprised once again opportunities for you to get in the Christmas Spirit – and to make someone else’s Christmas perhaps just a bit brighter. The Holiday Calendar is here, and it’s getting shorter quickly. The Help List is on page two.

I invite you to visit both of them to get something for yourself and then to perhaps do something for others.

WONDERFUL PICTURE

As I thought about what we’d publish on this page this week, the sticking point was what we call in this business, “art.” I knew I wanted to do this column and run the Holiday Calendar and that I could dispatch a photographer to find something appropriate to the holiday.

And then this picture arrived with several others from the Frankfort Optimist Club’s annual Christmas party with the kids in the local Head Start program. From a technical sense it’s just another of the many submitted pictures we publish – but the content of the picture is priceless, it is Christmas, it’s love, caring and the unabashed joy of childhood.

It’s the tree and the decorations, the vibrant colors – and the faces – each uniquely precious, brimming with possibilities and potential.

I look at that picture – and my dear friend Mike Rosenstein standing in for Santa – and I can’t help but smile and think of how often this scenario has been reprised around the world across the centuries since we started embracing the Jolly Ol’ Saint at Christmastime as children everywhere experience the mystery of Christmas.

Just step into the “room” where it was taken for a moment. Each little boy and girl is unique – some smiling, some laughing, some perhaps just a little scared of the guy in the red suit.

The picture captures the essence and the heart of Christmas: Joy and giving.

Then on this particular Christmas Eve Eve, my heart is saddened as I think of those families in Newtown, Conn., who should be taking their precious ones to see Santa – not planning funerals or wondering what to do with presents already purchased, wrapped and hidden away for Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

Their loss is unspeakable, unfathomable, unexplainable.

YET LIFE GOES ON

As a parent and a human being, I don’t know that I could survive something so horrible and yet even as I write it I know that life goes on and we must, too.

Perhaps the thing for us to do is to give something in memory or honor of those tiny souls whose names we only learned after they were brutally and heartlessly gunned down. Do something for those living whose names we don’t know whose needs are great – honor the dead while caring for the living.

You get the idea. I’ve been repeating the same “song” all month: Do something for someone else; do it from the goodness of your heart; do it without judging your fellow sojourner that’s down on his luck.

I have found that the better you’re feeling, the brighter your mood is at Christmas and the whole year ‘round, then the more likely you are to share the joy. I’ve found myself that way this Christmas: merry and bright and I’ll say it’s a quantum leap better than feeling dark and glum – and I’ve had Christmases like that, too, and they’re not much fun.

There’s plenty in our lives to pull us down, and some days it just becomes overwhelming. But life goes on and with it the good and the bad. All I can say to you is what I say to myself when my mood grows dark: Embrace it, deal with it and then push it away. It’s when you choose to live that way that things go from bad to worse.

We all have dark days and dark moments – collectively we had one last week when the news came in from Connecticut. My hope for you is that the beauty of this season can win out over the darkness and when it does you’ll want to share that joy!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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