As we head into the Christmas season and end the year 2008, it would do us all some good to pause and consider the one thing that remains inescapable in our pursuits, which is Peace and Hope. Americans must ponder; take account of and responsibility for the great country we currently inhabit.
There is so much that separates us in America today. We are right and left, we are Red and Blue; conservative and liberal. We are Republican and Democrat. We are different creeds, cultures, races and religions. We dress differently, talk differently, and live differently, love differently. We are straight, we are gay, we are rich, and we are poor. We are healthy and we are sick and disabled. We are Christian, Muslin, Buddhist, Atheist and Agnostic. We celebrate differently, mourn differently, and value differently. We are stoic, we are emotional, we are angry. We are diverse, White, Black, Asian, Hindu, Indian, Hispanic, a potpourri of people whose heritages most all began in foreign lands.
We contend with skins heads, anarchists, hate groups and groups that would divide us like the Religious Right. We have a government that seems to have no conscience and a financial system that excludes the masses and rewards only the rich. We spend so much time and energy worrying about what we think matters, our differences, and we rarely stop to realize how much we have in common.
The world, government and news media can beset us with priorities, some very real and some fabricated. We constantly have more and more things attacking our time. We work longer hours, we make less money, we play less and then constantly lament that we simply do not have enough time.
We take things for granted. In a ‘me-centered’ society we lose sight of what we already have in the blinding pursuit of what we think we do not have. Those who are married wish for some solitude and those who are alone long for a touch from someone who cares. For those who take their relationships for granted remember there are millions who are lonely. For those who hate their jobs remember there are millions who are unemployed.
I realize we celebrate the promise of hope and peace in a world of uneven opportunity and unequal distribution of wealth and goods. There are those who cannot afford to go out to eat, there are those in line at food pantries. There are those who wish to live in a better neighborhood and there are those who have no place to call home. There are some that enjoy plenty while others starve. Some Americans have access to unbelievable wealth while others live in abject poverty. Some live in comfort and security while others cringe in fear for their lives from day to day. There are gay people thrown out of families due to ignorance but there are those who receive unconditional love and support.
Yes, the old adage of "it can always be worse" is very real and true.
I ask you, are the divisions that separate us important? You bet! Are the latest disagreements about politics, morals, or policies important? Absolutely!
But...are these things more important than your family? Are they more important than those that you love? Are they more important than actually enjoying life as opposed to commenting on it? Those are the questions we need to ponder as we close another year. Do not ever be so busy observing life that you fail to participate in it. The things that seem so important today will be long forgotten as time passes on.
We are creatures of love in America whether we admit it or not. We have an inherent desire to love and to be loved. Perhaps, some more than others. Perhaps some have become calloused from the scars life can leave in its wake. But even the most hardened, battle scarred person deep in their hearts just wants to be loved. I encourage us to reach out to someone this season. Love someone this season. The powers that be will always tell you why you need to hate people. Somehow we always have time for hate. I believe we need to make some time this season for love.
There is nothing worse to most than regret. What regrets do you have in 2008? What will you regret in your future? We must refocus on what is important. Do not be the one to stand over a grave with words unsaid to someone you cared about. Do not be the one whose last words to someone were words that were said in anger. Political problems will be a constant. Disagreements will always be there. Debate will always be available. But sometimes we only get one chance to make something right. Sometimes we only get a specific amount of time, to right a wrong. Or to tell someone they are loved. This is the hope of the season, if only for a moment.
Take a moment this season to really think about what you do have, not what you wished you did. The grass is not always greener on the other side. I encourage each American that in the midst of the differences we all focus on, at our core and in our hearts, we are more frighteningly similar than we realize. Spend some time this Christmas season concentrating on what brings us together instead of what drives us apart. Amidst the differences we all "over-focus on", at our core and in our hearts, we are more frighteningly similar than we realize. Spend some time this Christmas season concentrating on what brings us together instead of what drives us apart.
It is not hard to be cynical when you see the cultural and political landscape collapse around you and you see so many in such pain. When you see what is reported in the media and embrace the evil that can lie in the hearts of people. But remember that the unreported side is the inherent goodness that also can lie in the hearts of many. There are random acts of kindness that happen every day but go unreported. They not only matter; they should matter more to us than they do. They cut to the heart of what we can be in this country. They are what are at the center of the hope and peace which we must grasp for as a daily pursuit.
We will have plenty of time to discuss what we disagree about in America in years to come. The only real differences are between those who are so jaded that they have lost their hope and those that still hold on to the inherent goodness of Americans.
The clock keeps running and time moves on. Make a choice this season to embrace peace and hope. Tell the ones you love what they mean to you. Tell the ones you disagree with that they still matter as people (maybe even hug a Republican!). Focus on what you have and be thankful for it. Remember that what you choose to do will determine what you have time for, not the other way around. Politics may divide us but love can still bind us, even if it is just for a season.
I submit a message of hope and peace to an America that is torn with strife and recession, for people who see no light at the end of the tunnel, to imagine and believe that the light is there and someday they also will see it.
The Christmas message as written in the Gospel of Luke lends itself to reaching out to the underprivileged, to those on the lowest rungs of society, and even to those of uneven opportunity and distribution and yet it is a message of hope that does not discriminate, it is equal for all Americans and to the world. It is the message of Peace and Hope.