A message has been making the rounds on Facebook lately urging people to remember the less fortunate at Christmas. You've probably seen it. It was one of those, “if you agree, post this to your timeline for at least one hour” messages. Like all of those posts that insist you “share” the message I found it annoying. Many of them say something like, "We'll see how many people have their hearts in the right place. I'll bet 97% of you won't re-post this."
You win. I won't.
In this case I “liked” the post because I like the poster but I but didn't share it. Aside from my personal annoyance, like many social media notes it attacked a huge issue with cursory, superficial and ignorant observations.
That's how we roll in 21st Century America.
This particular message was well-intended but not very well written. It not only urges us to think of the hungry, the homeless and those who are facing great physical or emotional challenges and to count our blessings, it kind of makes you feel guilty for being happy.
That's a uniquely American social problem right now. But, I digress...
The message did make me think back to Christmas seasons in my life that were less than completely joyous. There was one in particular.
December 1981: My first wife and I had split up less than a month earlier. I didn't want the divorce but I had to move out of our home, away from the life I still loved and our four-year-old son. I spent that Christmas in an apartment more alone and lonely than I had ever been in my life. I wasn't hungry, homeless or without friends but I was a young man who had always been blessed with a large, loving family, and now my immediate family had splintered. It was not the Christmas I had always been promised.
I was shattered.
I was shattered.
Time, as they say, heals all wounds. It also gives us perspective. That lonely Christmas 33 years ago taught me the most important lesson of my life:
Happiness and misery are transitory. Neither will last forever.
In December 1981 I learned that we don't live in a Norman Rockwell world. Christmas isn't filled with nonstop love and joy. Most of us don't have movie-beautiful homes in a soft snowfall with Grandma and Grandpa arriving on the front porch, smiles on their faces, bearing beautifully wrapped gifts and warm hugs.
Some Christmases are happier than others. Some are tragic. Mostly, they are times in our years when our exaggerated expectations fail to meet reality, and yet, we still love them.
As long as a child lives in you there is hope and happiness.
Help the needy when you can. Pray for the less fortunate if you are one who prays, but never let despair or guilt of your blessings mark your joy.
If you agree, share this message.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good life!