Monday, January 7, 2013
On December 14th, 2012 twenty children were shot and killed in their classrooms in a Connecticut elementary school. Prayers have been said, children have been reassured, and the families of the children, staff, and teachers that were killed are experiencing pain on an unprecedented and unexplainable level. There are presents under their Christmas tree that will never be opened, stockings by the fireplace and ornaments on the low hanging branches that little hands will never reach. Clothes in closets that will never be worn again, a chair at the dinner table that will always remain empty. The sound of their familiar voices are silenced, and in the next two weeks, funerals and memorials will take place in the season of what should be a time of celebration with family and remembrance of Christmas’ past with hope toward a happy New Year. But for the families of the slain in Connecticut, Christmas will never be the same. We will hear the perfunctory sentiment about how we should hold our children especially tight, making sure we tell them we love them. We will be told to be mindful throughout the holiday season and offer extended overtures of gratitude in an exponential form. And in the context of this horror, we will follow this prevailing wisdom and bring forth action that speaks from our heart. We will pay a bit more attention to those we love this year, we truly will. And we will be more expressive and forthcoming with our thanks to those that have been so good, so dear, and so important. In light of the emotions that are associated with such sudden and distinct loss, we must come to this Christmas with an open and forgiving heart. It is in this time of the year more than any other that we must put our angers aside and offer up our best selves. In the spirit of Christmas, which is underscored by the profound sentiment of giving and generosity, we must share in our understanding and patience with one another. So much of Christmas is wrapped in stress. In a flurry of activity between work and some free time, for three weeks we shop, wrap, decorate, shop some more, send cards, stuff stockings, send cards, cook a meal…and it’s all over. The feelings of the season leave us, and we have little to show for it than a great deal of time spent standing in line. And really, what does it matter? Do you really remember what you got last Christmas? What about the year before? Do you remember who you gave what to, or who gave to you? Was their meaning in the giving? Was their memory in the receiving? I am going to ask of you that, in consideration of the season and the events in Connecticut, you do something differently this Christmas. I get that you’re supposed to hug your children and be grateful for the day, that’s fine and I encourage that, especially now. But I want you to take one more step that will change this Christmas into something forever memorable and meaningful. I want you to write a letter to each one of your family members and let them know how much they mean to you. Then I want you to do the same to each of your friends. Then, after that, I want you to do the exact same things to people that have crossed your path this year that you’ve had words with or continue to hold feelings of anger and resentment. Thank each of them for their kindness and patience, thank each of them for making a difference in your life and, especially to those whom you harbor ill will, ask them for forgiveness and let them know that you forgive them, too. Next year at this time, some of these people may no longer be with you. Some of them may be gone forever, some just may take a different path in your life and may never return. To each of these people, now is the time to let them know the importance of their place in your life. Your letter will be an offering of love. It will resonate in their hearts. You will, with the stroke of your pen, make permanent the season of Christmas. And wherever they go, for however long they’re gone, they will always take your love with them. Merry Christmas.
I have just begun to wrap my head around the idea that we have entered another year. And with this realization, I also understand that as another year has passed, so has another birthday. At this time of the new year we are all one year older than this time last year. We are getting older. I have always had a deep loathing for the word “older” and I don’t assign much importance to it. But it’s not always a particularly pleasant thought. Most of us don’t want to get old. But we don’t want to do the things we need to do that delay the process, like exercise or eating the right things. We want to live our life in a happy fashion, free from worry and with a reasonable amount of mobility. We want to be able to breath, see, hear, sing, and to get from here to there without much pain.. We want our legs to work. We want to be able to drive a car. We hold on to what gives us a sense of freedom but also connects us with our world. And we want to be able to remember. We want to know what we’ve done, where we’ve been, what’s been said and why. My memory doesn’t seem to have the same capacity as it once did. It’s a byproduct of getting old, but it’s also a result of routine. I don’t pay enough attention, or at least not as much as I used to. Maybe there isn’t that much to pay attention to. Things fall into a day to day habit of living. It’s Monday, then it’s Friday again, and another week goes by. Christmas just passed and you can’t believe the year passed so quickly and we’re that about to start another. We want a do-over. We want another chance. We want to get a little younger. Time is passing. So if we feel that we are getting old, our direction needs to change and our attitude tweaked a little. The state of age is not a chronological measure; it is truly manifest in our attitude. So here’s the deal… This is a one way trip. Know it in your bones. You are in it maybe, what, 70, 80 years if you’re lucky? And that’s barring an accident or some bad luck that hammers you with heart disease, cancer or a stroke. If you live with an ongoing stress, subtract a few years more from that life total. You are going to leave this planet and it may be soon. It’s not a pleasant thought, but it’s a reality you have to familiarize yourself with pretty quickly. So if you’re sacrificing today for “someday down the road” you’re going to be that person in the last years of their life wondering how life passed them by. Please step forward. One step today. Make the call, see the movie, book the flight, drop the resentment, visit the friend, eat the ice cream, watch cartoons, read that book, and smile the whole day through. Dance in the store. Laugh for no reason. Abandon all thought of what others think of you. Be whatever you are. Souls never wrinkle. Spirits never age. Reclaim the energy of life within you. Live. This. Life. Now.