Ghosts of Christmas past

All I want this Christmas is joy, prosperity, and a collective sense of harmony. But, like the jaded characters in every Hallmark Christmas movie, I mostly just feel anxious and worried as I count down the days… And I have serious doubts about Santa’s ability to fix this by Christmas.

Apparently, I’m not the only one having holiday angst this year. Sounds like one of the Koch brothers got a visit from the ghost of Christmas past. All the remakes of the classic story by Charles Dickens have a unique take on the way the ghost appears to the curmudgeonly lead character who has lost the holiday spirit. I have no doubt Mr. Koch’s apparition was as unique in relaying his message as mine, who showed up late at night in the form of James Caan drunk on egg nog and wearing a Santa hat. Hey, whatever it takes to bring the Joy!

I remember the days when I actually looked forward to the holidays, before masks and hand sanitizer were acceptable stocking stuffers. Once upon a time we were sitting around with some people we had just met, having drinks on the patio. This was the way it had always been, and I took it for granted. We were all just Americans, enjoying the evening and discussing our holiday plans. Suddenly, a woman walking past our table tripped and landed face first on the pavement. It sounded like a steak hitting the ground, and we all froze for an unbelieving second. Then the blood began to pool beside her head, and everyone sprang into action. One guy ran inside to call 911 while three other people knelt by the woman and the rest of us formed the perimeter. My husband, the yin to my yang, i.e., always cool in a crisis, started asking her questions: where is the worst pain? Can you move your fingers and toes? What’s your name?

Karen. Her name was Karen and she had taken a bad fall. While we waited for the paramedics to arrive, we all did whatever we could to make her more comfortable and ease the tension around us. There is a noticeable difference in the air when someone is severely injured; a collective feeling of compassion mixed with a nervous energy. Like an Episcopal priest on coke. That night was the perfect example of our innate human instinct to help a complete stranger in need.

Nowadays, when we need to be there for each other more than ever, we are masked and weary. Our collective anxiety is at Defcon 1, even though we are hunkered down at home most of the time. We are a divided nation on the brink of civil unrest, and we do not listen to each other. Instead, we listen to news outlets that pump out propaganda for whichever side owns them, and the talking heads on tv who are just there to see who can sell the most.

Sell the most whatever. Consumerism is the name of the game. The thing about these pundits today is, they are paid to be there, and they are really just waiting for their turn to talk so they can state their “facts.” No one is listening; therefore no one is heard. And now, when we find ourselves on either side of a very wide national gap, it is harder than ever to hear what the other side has to say.

Can Team Red and Team Blue peacefully coexist this holiday season? Like cats and dogs living together in harmony, I believe it can be done with lots of training and treats. And we can get some middle-of-the-road legislation that will represent us for a change. Everyone in Washington can listen up, because the American people have the final say on policies that affect our daily lives, and active listening is one thing we can all do to bridge the gap we’ve created in our own country. Here’s hoping we all wake up on Christmas morning to find inner peace and stuffed stockings. And that we take the time to listen to our neighbor’s weird dream involving James Caan and too much egg nog.

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