Northwest Ohio might seem like a long way from heaven. Nearly every day we hear, or read about, another shooting. Unemployment, poverty, and domestic strife darken the days of tens of thousands of our neighbors. Leaders continue to disappoint us.
The rest of the world appears even messier. In the holy lands of the Middle East, prospects for peace and understanding are dimmer today than they were a year ago.
But even on a troubled planet, small acts of kindness and generosity continue to bless us. Tragedies such as the Connecticut school slaughter and Hurricane Sandy evoke an outpouring of charity from strangers. Families and friends support each other in the face of trouble.
You’re probably feeling more charitable this time of year too, despite the stress and strain of the holidays. Yes, the spirit of Christmas has been corrupted by the annual sales orgy, but a universal message of love, peace, redemption, and forgiveness manages to warm most hearts.
Lifted by the season’s magic, people are more patient, quicker to smile at a stranger, more willing to give. Some defense lawyers prefer to try cases this time of year, because jurors are more likely to temper justice with mercy.
It’s not just Christians whose souls are soothed. Hanukkah, the eight-day festival of lights, is not a high holiday for Jews, but its proximity to Christmas raises its profile. Hanukkah’s message of freedom, tolerance, and respect celebrates unity in diversity, reminding us to cherish what is best in all faiths, and in all people.
The holiday season also includes the African-American celebration of Kwanzaa, a weeklong observance dedicated to seven principles and the ancient African ethical mandates to bring good into the world constantly, and to heal, repair, and renew it.
Wrapping up the year, the holidays inevitably invite reflection. We take stock of who we are and what we ought to be, committing ourselves to do better.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus showed that one person can change the world, bearing a universal message of love, redemption, and hope. More than ever, that spirit is worth celebrating.