Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Christmas 2013 Post

Photo by Laura Newberry

This past year has been challenging.

It’s been challenging for my family because we don’t have enough money to pay our bills. Our kids – who, like all children, deserve all that life has to offer – have had to do without and Anita has had to do too much. The unyielding stress we’ve all felt has been more than a little detrimental.

It’s been challenging for many of our friends – especially the man who, as I’ve shared, is spending his first Christmas without his beloved son.

It’s been challenging for the millions of families who depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps) to put food on their tables – actually for anyone at the mercy of callous, short-sighted officials who care more about partisan game-playing than about serving the people who voted for them.

It’s still challenging for those who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December. Regrettably, they’ve been joined by the families and friends of roughly 34,272 others who’ve died from guns since Newtown.

Life’s been challenging for many people for many reasons. If I dwell on this – if I see the glass as half-empty – then for all intents and purposes I’m useless. I’m depressed and unproductive and ineffective and, like all ultra-sensitive people, I’m part of the problem, sucking up energy without replacing it.

But if I look at the bright side – if I have hope and see the glass as half-full – the challenges become manageable. Life goes on. As I tell my kids, there’s beauty all around us all the time. Sometimes it seems like there isn’t, like it’s hidden or gone, but it’s there. (Look here or here or here or here.) Sometimes it feels like we have to look awfully hard to find it, I tell them, but it can always be found.

The latest story that’s touched me with its beauty comes from Pennsylvania. An eight-year-old girl named Delaney Brown who lives in West Reading was diagnosed this past May with a rare form of leukemia. “Laney” underwent radiation treatment and even received a stem cell transplant but doctors just told her family that she won’t be with them much longer.

One of Laney’s last wishes was apparently to hear people sing Christmas songs outside her window. How many folks do you think showed up? Twenty? Fifty? Try 10,000. She’s also been recognized by Pennsylvania’s state legislature for increasing awareness of childhood cancer, and her other wish was granted last Friday when she chatted with pop star and Pennsylvania native Taylor Swift via videochat. (Her “Team Laney” Facebook page has more than 95,000 “likes.”)

One could be cynical and point out that 21,000 children die every day around the world (one child every four seconds), people of color seldom receive the kind of media attention that white folks enjoy, and just over half of those who are old enough to vote actually turned out in our last presidential election. But why? Let's just experience beauty without mitigation.

It’s in the eye of the beholder, of course, but I think it’s beautiful when children smile and old people laugh. When people fight to live or fight for what’s right. When a person is born and when two people become one. When we connect with animals. When the sun rises, the snow falls, the wind blows, the birds sing and the waves lap against the shore. It’s beautiful when people dance. When we come together to make things better for those we don’t even know. And it’s beautiful when 10,000 strangers gather on Chestnut Street in West Reading, Pennsylvania to grant a dying little girl’s last wish.

Merry Christmas.

Photo by Lisa Wozniak

Sources: Slate.com, 6abc.com, Belfast Telegram, Statisticbrain.com, Globalissues.org, Philly.com.

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