It’s really hard to get into the holiday spirit these days while innundated with the siren call of greed, commercial profiteering, and everywhere the trappings of privilege.
Ferguson. New York. Florida. Brown, Garner, Martin. Racism.
Unequal pay for equal work; hell, let’s be honest, lesser pay for greater work. Rape culture. Controlled access to medicine that should be between a woman and her doctor. Sexism.
Torture, for the love of all that is holy. What are we to make of a country that likes to think of itself as the leader of the free world and who claims the right to chide other countries about their human rights abuses, all while it engages in a clandestine program of systematic torture and abuse of power?
That I find it hard to know where to stop this list of things that are wrong in the world is – or could be – incredibly discouraging. That I can compile this list from current events during what is supposed to be a season for celebrating love, abundance, and spiritual belief is – or could be – crushing.
I know. Odd way to start a piece about hope.
And then came this article titled Abundance Without Attachment, sent by a friend who knew it would resonate. It speaks eloquently of three practices to help remember what’s important: collect experiences rather than things, pay attention to what you’re doing instead of spending all your time distracted by its end result, and get to the center of the wheel of coming and going, winning and losing.
The article doesn’t hold a magic answer, nor does it provide an easy solution to the problems of the world. What reading it did was to buy me the opportunity to reflect and capture a few moments of joy.
Moments like noticing this morning the light reflecting off the fence just beneath a tiny bird basking in the warming sun.
Moments like the small smile that answered a morning kiss on the cheek of one of my sleeping wives.
Moments like the look of pure joy on our youngest son’s face last night as he called us together as a family to hang ornaments on the tree.
I found myself this morning reflecting on Samuel and the tree. He’s an early teen. He’s difficult in the way that teens are difficult, that is to say he has the uncanny ability to drive his parents crazy in ways that are uniquely his and for which it is impossible to prepare.
Samuel is not prone to want a lot by way of presents, and in fact doesn’t really seem to like them much. When I am outside my center, I think of his reaction to gifts as lack of gratitude. This morning I see that what matters to him more than material gifts is experience. Connection, for all that he can be awkward about it.
This morning I see that he is hope for the future, as are all our young.
For all that is wrong with the world, and for all that indeed some of our young people can be – not to put too fine a point on it – assholes, they are our best hope for a future that holds the potential for thoughtful, caring people making the world a better place. This morning, when I look at the face of our youngest and realize that he has – as do all the children of our blended and crazy family – a good heart, a keen mind, and a stubborn insistence on what he feels is right, I am inclined to smile.
It’s not that the problems of the world just got solved. It’s not even the fairytale belief that they will ever be completely solved. Hell, it’s not even that I think I have a clue about raising teens.
It’s that life has goodness in it, and there are people in the world that I had a part in raising who know what’s right and what’s wrong, and just might be a part of bringing about a world that has less hate and ignorance.
That’s my gift to you this holiday season: hope.
So whether you are Scrooge or Cratchit or Tiny Tim, whether your attitude toward the season is Noel Coward’s or Calvin Coolidge’s, and whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanza or Winter Solstice or all or none, I wish you hope. Hope and a call to keep on living a life that will make a difference.
Dr. Les Kertay, Awakened Moments