Every year I look for inspiration to help me create this message and I must admit this year it has been a bit of a struggle. The external environment seems so divisive at the moment and good people just can’t seem to figure out ways to respect each other’s views. Many of us are having monologues we think are dialogues with another person. It’s not enough to think you are right, you must ram in down the other person’s throat and prove to them they are wrong (which probably will never happen by the way). Our public leaders take advantage of this fact and divide and conquer us as it suits their individual purpose. Moreover, our media instead of being objective, takes sides and wags its finger at those it deems ripe for judgment; prioritizing ratings over reporting. We force the complexities of life into “black and white’ constructs with no appreciation for the “gray” that exits in most individual circumstances. Whatever happened to trying to understand where another person was coming from? What about one of our most revered historical leaders, Lincoln, reminding us to act “with malice towards none and with charity to all.” And, as the Biblical saying goes, “We are all equal before the eyes of God.” I sometimes wonder if people really fully digest the teachings of those sources they revere.
All people form beliefs and act based on personal experience and their own perception of good intentions. Very few people wake up wanting to make the world a worse place and harm their fellow man/woman. As human beings, we all basically want the same basic things: meaningfulness, love, friendship, security and opportunity. When these things are lacking in a society or community, cracks in its foundation start to emerge. There is much more that unites us than pulls us apart. We seem to take our blessings for granted and embrace every opportunity to feel slighted and/or a victimized. Everyone should read Stephen Pinker (and others of his ilk) to see how much better we have it than ever before in human experience. Our societal foundation is comparatively strong. Why aren’t we more grateful instead of being so perturbed?
Then it hit me. The story of Christmas is exactly what we should be focusing on. A refugee child from a family of meager means is born in the humblest of circumstances. He is raised by a loving unsuspecting mother and understanding and supportive stepfather who do their best to raise him in the right way and let his spirit shine. He spends his short time on the planet as an adult reaching out to all types of people to help them find the best within themselves through a compelling unifying message. His default emotion is empathy. He does his best to serve as an inspirational role model. He is especially interested in crossing socio-economic boundaries and seeing the good and common humanity in all people. He has minimal interest in material things but instead is generous to fault with what little he has. He relies on the kindness of strangers to help him survive and do his important work. He speaks truth to power and challenges societal conventions that are either corrupt or not working effectively. He most certainly has the courage of his convictions. When confronted by enormous temptations he finds the strength within himself to resist and stay focused on his true path and mission. When ultimately asked to put the needs of others before his own, he avoids the easy way out to benefit himself and instead pays the biggest of personal prices to fulfill his purpose. He is what we could be…
Whether you are a person of faith or not it is an important story that has stood the test of time. Regardless of your particular faith, the overall message hopefully rings true. Why? Because it shows the depths of the potential courage, compassion and good within each of us. Of course, it is a high bar and we all fall short quite often. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t be inspired to do better. It’s easy to judge, but much harder to try to understand and to forgive. Anger and resentment are relatively easy emotions to embrace. We often resist what is hard to comprehend and even harder to put into practice. We crave familiarity and fear difference. Our preference is to choose the easier route when possible. Our scarcity mentality allows us to survive, but in most cases hinders our individual and collective ability to thrive. We confuse more with better. We feel sorry for the less fortunate but mostly leave them to fend for themselves. We like to feel we are better than other people and more deserving of what we have without fully appreciating the advantages we started with (and they did not). We put our own needs above the more desperate needs of others. We put our own tribe on a pedestal whilst casting stones at other tribes. We like to believe we are more courageous than we are and truly won’t know until tested. In essence, we are human and a continual work in progress until the day we depart this earth-bound journey.
The good news is that we have ample opportunity to grow, improve and evolve in ways that benefit one another. I am by no means a pessimist. Actually, I am very much the opposite. I see the good in people all the time. There is a light of goodness than runs through the universe that is hard to miss if you are paying attention. I see regular examples of selflessness, charity and helpfulness every day. I’ll go to my grave believing our default human behavior is to “do good unto others.” The story of Jesus shows us all what is possible when we tap into this energy. We may not be God, but we can all strive to be more “Jesus-like” in our thinking and actions. He doesn’t need to be your “Messiah” or “Son of God” for you to get the point. The story itself has value regardless of the religious interpretation.
I sincerely hope that 2019 is happy, healthy, successful and enjoyable year for your family and you!
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Christmas poems:
The House of Christmas
By G.K. Chesterton
There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.
For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.
A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.
This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.