Christmas music is on the air. Christmas decorations are already out in some communities. Mail boxes are inundated with advertisements to buy stuff and give “joy” away. Undoubtedly, there is gratification in giving and getting the perfect gift. Yet, how long will that feeling last? Is it true joy? How much of our “being” are we compromising (maybe silencing?) when we emphasize our “having”? Is “stuff” going to suit our hunger for meaning? Things, even beautiful and useful things, will never bring us healing and wholeness. And yet in our greed (or is it desperation?) we silently worship the next “essential” gadget. We secretly hope that the new acquisition will numb our pains or delay our anxieties. But idols do not have hearts and leave us empty handed.
The Holiday Season comes to us with its deafening chaos. Maybe we want that chaos to distract us from our many personal and collective unanswered questions. Maybe our stories are too messy to untangle. Maybe we struggle to find meaning and lasting hope to our individual and social quest. Who are we as a people affected by 9/11, Katrina, the war in Iraq, corporate greed, corruption and dishonesty? Who are we scarred by illnesses, deaths, broken relationships, divorces, bankruptcies, homelessness and hunger? Who are we as we sit more or less comfortably at the Eid ul-Fitr, the braking of the Ramadan fast, or at Thanksgiving Tables, or gather around a Nativity Scene, celebrate Kwanza, or light the Hanukkiyah candelabra? How many of us will suffer emotional turmoil this Holiday Season? How many will struggle for sheer survival?
Broken hearts and longing souls seek after a more meaningful life, more satisfying personal connections, and inner healing. In my experience, this happens when we stop, and give ourselves permission to “take our time.” Time to give ourselves the gift of silence, -of centering ourselves in the presence of God-, and time to give the gift of empathic listening to others –of “being” in another person‘s presence without moralistic judgments that imply wrongness or badness, blameful thinking, all too quick labeling. By giving to another person that gift, we will receive an incredible gift ourselves: we will discover our common humanity.
This Holiday Season let us give ourselves (and those around us) the gift of time to reconnect, then even the “stuff” we are able to give away will have a different flavor and new meaning.