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.