Whether you practice a religion or not, the holiday season is a holy time for many faiths: Christians, Jews, Pagans, Hindus, Muslims–and all have important winter festivals and devotional events. Just a quick look online shows how rich and diverse are the opportunities to express one’s spirituality during this time of year!
While our commercial culture demands we spend and consume as much as possible in December, many people crave something more. I, for one, enjoy giving and receiving gifts; this admission is to stave off accusations of hypocrisy, but it’s also to provide perspective. I also enjoy the spirituality of the season, and I try, at least a little, to seize the opportunity to reflect. I’m leading into a request for you to try the same.
What Child is This?
I am a public school teacher in a district with great socioeconomic disparities but also richness of ethnicity and observed faith. Our 40% minority consists of African, Hispanic, Vietnamese, Pakistani, Indian, and Arabic students–just to name a few. I am lucky to know so many great kids who share so much of their heritage with me.
With that, I’ll share an observation gleaned from my experience working with these kids. The holidays are a wonderful time of year, but they can also be very trying. Suspensions increase in December and January. Unexplained absences occur. Suicide attempts can be more common.
Joyousness is all too often usurped by abuse, neglect, poverty, and unmet expectations among family and friends. Students are burdened by events from outside school, and the weight of these disappointments are so much heavier during the holidays.
Children, of course are not the only ones who suffer despite our best efforts to be merry. Throughout the world starvation, conflict, terror, and fear plague countless masses. We must also bear witness to the challenges they face.
May I impose upon your celebrations for a moment? The call to charity is strong as the weather grows cold. While we should do our best to contribute materially, this is not a request for that brand of donation.
Let me return to an appeal of faith. Let me return to the demands of devotion. No matter your religious beliefs, positive thoughts lead to positive deeds; positive deeds, in turn, lead to positive change.
Please take a moment to offer some sort of spiritual offering to those who need it. It costs you nothing, and there is no risk involved. Even an atheist must admit the beneficence of loving thoughtfulness.
So here is my humble contribution: as I was raised a Catholic, this year I give alms that honor that tradition–a Novena to St. Jude. Please consider reciting the prayer for someone you know or even for someone you don’t.
Better yet, share a prayer according to your custom in the comments below. Or learn a new one and teach us too. No matter what you believe, leaving your words here will serve as a unique gift that will definitely not be returned to the store. Thanks, and happy holidays.
4 thoughts on “Winter Prayers”
Very timely GC – I was just at a retail outlet who asked for a donation to the local food bank which they would match and almost everyone in line before me contributed, as did I btw.
However, a short prayer, Novena as mentioned, is a good idea – there are many out there this season and realistically all year round who are in need of some good intentions – and it does cost nothing – also it wouldn’t hurt to check on your neighbor(s) to make sure they are in good spirits and functionality.
Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays – just enjoy whatever holiday you observe with family, friends and acquaintances.
I like your writing style really enjoying this website.
If you knew about the lady in the picture of “Define Necessity”…Let me tell you a little about her…
She is a survivor of domestic abuse.
Her family suffered a job loss a few years before the photo and she didn’t get enough to eat. Her family was surviving in poverty.
Her sparse diet caused her gall bladder to stop working properly and she ended up with gall stones. She suffered numerous and reoccuring gall stone attacks for several years because she could not afford a doctor. The pain was so intense she wished death might come to end her pain. During that time she also suffered several abcessed teeth and strep throat without any medical care,
She has sacrificed much for her family, and micromanaged her money so that she could scrape enough together to buy gifts for her children, nephews, and nieces. She budgeted every item in that cart and there were less than $100 worth of gifts.
The picture was staged and her photo was taken without her consent, and upon witnessing it she spiraled into a severe depression.
Out of respect for her, please remove the picture. Thank you.
Thanks for your insight, human compassion. I agree that it isn’t right to judge someone merely by their picture. Admittedly, I used that meme because of it’s popularity last holiday season, and I thought it fit the message of my post.
I just updated it with a video of a holiday riot at Walmart. I think it reflects the consumerist hysteria most of us embrace–at least to some degree–during Christmastime.
While I do feel sympathy for the woman you wrote about, I regret the social pressures that force her to spend her very limited budget on gifts that most of her loved one could do without, I guess.
It is not her fault that she was conditioned this way, and this is what makes the story you shared even more tragic.