To those of you who are loving the holiday, please stop reading. I respect your festivities and wish you the merriest of whatever you celebrate. I’m genuinely happy that the worst thing you are worrying about this season is slow shipping. Retain that joy for as long as you can. This is for the rest of us. I think it’s for most of us.
This is for all the homeless I see tucked in behind the dumpsters now that the library is forced to close to the public. There is no more warm day shelter, no computers to use so they can check up on jobs, contact family and apply for assistance.
This is for the man begging for change on the corner. I couldn’t read the sign he held, but I could see he was crying in the cold. Message received. This is for the 700+ cars I see lined up at the local food distribution. Why did I see them? Because I was one of those cars.
This is for the mother I came across at Walmart yesterday when I snuck in to buy half and half, a former staple that has become a luxury. This woman was so happy filling her cart with gifts. As I passed, I overheard this snippet of conversation:
“Shouldn’t you calm down? You can’t afford all this stuff and the bill’s gonna hurt come January,” said a young woman with her.
“Nope!” The mother tossed an armload of festive Christmas candy into her cart, already piled high. “We’re getting a $2,000 check and my baby is gonna have a good Christmas.”
I can’t help but think of this poor woman as I scan headlines this morning. Not only is there no $2,000 stimulus check coming at this moment, but there’s a good possibility there is no stimulus at all for now. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone. We all know who to blame, and we all probably disagree who that is anyways, so no political rants from me.
This is for us as well. Ryan switched jobs due to COVID early on in the pandemic and took a pay cut. My super part time library job suddenly became important. Now even those hours are cut to the quick. I’ve spent much of December job hunting. Something I never thought I’d say, my royalties have made the difference. Things are tight, but we aren’t sunk. Many, many people are not so lucky.
To say this has been a tough month is silly. It’s been a tough year. I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t lost someone. A few days ago we had an armed but peaceful protest downtown here in Kansas City. The same day in Oregon a not-so-peaceful group stormed the capitol building, smashing glass doors. One woman even brought a pitchfork, perhaps not understanding that the “torch and pitchfork” is a trope to convey ignorant violence—the tool of mindless mobs and witch hunts.
Naturally unfestive, I am one of the least qualified to offer holiday cheer, so I won’t try. Unfestive is not the same as heartless, however, and I am deeply concerned for everyone who will be spending the end of 2020 in the cold, alone and hungry.
In past years that was more a theoretical thing to say. This year, it’s substantial. Many, many are in significant emotional, financial and physical pain this year, around the world. Most of us are helpless to make a big impact. But we aren’t helpless to make any impact.
We can do our best in whatever dark little corner we find ourselves in. A thin, wavering flame still glows, however weak. Even if we have nothing to share but a smile… that might be just enough for someone. There have been times in my own life where that made the difference to me.
I won’t say happy holidays because for the large majority of us, they aren’t. Hunger, pending evictions, violence and the pandemic continue to take their toll. The worst is ahead, not behind. I would be delusional to suggest otherwise. But don’t despair. There’s hope.
For one, you have incredible resilience. I know this because you made it to the end of this long, dismal post on Christmas eve. Also, we’ve been here before. Maybe not you and I, but the world. The news and politicians like to use the work unprecedented, but that’s hyperbole. We’ve been through many apocalypses through the eons. It may feel like the end of the world, but it isn’t. The world is a little bigger than just this. Finally, we still have something to give: love. If we can share that, many of our problems will become insignificant.
We won’t have to argue about politics, masks and how germs work because kind people respect each other. This alone would get rid of a lot of the 2020 angst. There won’t be any need to bring a pitchfork to a demonstration because kind people don’t run in mindless mobs.
Kind doesn’t mean weak: you can stand up for yourself without hatred. You can voice your thoughts without screaming. The bonus of acting in love is people might even listen… especially if you do it first. We can all be the example we would like others to be.
May your holiday be as bright, as safe and as warm as possible this year. May we all be blessed to find next year a better one. That shouldn’t be too difficult… 2020 has not set the bar too high for that.