The visions of turkey and tinsel appear before our eyes once again, but little feels familiar amidst this holiday season. For many, the next month will involve a tangle of stressful logistics, aching for family members living in isolation, and the dark unknown that has enveloped so much of this year. In spite of the circumstances that weigh heavily on our minds, we cannot ignore some form of traditional festivities in 2020.
It is quite possible that celebrating Thanksgiving felt hollow or strange this year. Maybe you had to Zoom with extended family rather than open the front door to them. Perhaps, when curating a gratitude list, it was easier to think about the particular challenges rather than blessings 2020 held, but the paradoxical nature of difficult seasons is such that the harder it is to see the silver lining, the more important that silver lining becomes. This might not feel intuitive, but the importance of gratitude often slips one’s mind in the hectic day to day. Even under normal circumstances, our nation’s historical leaders believed that America needed a specific recurring day to remind the collective whole to give thanks. How much more is Thanksgiving needed under abnormal circumstances? To lose our sense of gratitude is to lose our grasp on hope. Although Turkey Day has come and gone, let us intentionally hold on to thankfulness as we welcome 2021.
As the calendar flips and we come to the Christmas season, you might be thinking, “Telling us to smile and be joyful is the last thing we need right now.” You would almost be correct. Telling this audience to smile and be happy is the last thing anyone needs right now, but “happiness” and “joy” are not the same thing — not even close. Happiness is based on circumstances; therefore, it would be ridiculous at best to attempt to summon any shred of happiness from the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Rather than trying to build on the wobbly foundation of changing circumstances, may we find our peace in the immutable love of Jesus, appreciating more fully the people around us and the memories we are still able to make. If we only concern ourselves with our personal joy, a vicious cycle ensues: by trying to satisfy ourselves, we eventually walk away unsatisfied and empty. Conversely, by seeking to brighten the lives of others, our own hearts become a little lighter as a result. Send someone a text with a specific reason as to why you appreciate them, deliver a favorite beverage, or simply look someone in the eyes, right above his or her face mask, and smile. By turning our focus outwards, we remember that joy is never the sought outcome, but rather the oxygen needed to carry on with the lives we are meant to fulfill.
We all are given some jurisdiction as to how we respond to the circumstances of 2020. As one holiday passes after another, may we not shy away from the fundamental core of those days. Instead, may we exercise hope, gratitude and joy as we live in relation with the people around us. In doing so, we will win, rather than waste, the last few days of this year.
Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.