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“Peace on Earth?” – How ’bout Peace in the Parking Lot?

December 12, 2010

‘Tis the season to be jolly.  Or at least, so the song goes.

It’s the holiday season, so while we hear “Peace on Earth” from all sides — on the radio, on TV, from advertising — what has happened to the “goodwill toward men?”

Truly, in the season of joy and light, many people are ruder than ever.  I don’t think it’s just the “Bah, humbugs” of the world, either.  For many people, this is a rough time of year. I don’t mean for those people you would expect be having it tough: the homeless, the indigent, those who are separated from loved ones, either temporarily — through military service, by geographical or emotional distance, — or permanently by divorce or death.  I’m talking about “ordinary” folks who find this time of year particularly stressful for ordinary reasons.

There are many factors, I believe, that contribute to the holiday stress. The deadline of “things to accomplish before the big day/night/nights,” such as shopping, making lists and checking them twice, spending more than we’re comfortable, worrying about travel plans or time with challenging relatives.  I know there are pressures; I feel them, too.

But does that give us the right to be particularly snappish or rude to others? I mean, the mad frenzy to grab a special gift when the doors open at the mall, or the hateful looks you get in the parking lot if you happened to score a spot (or what about the people who snag them right under you!)  — I wonder if anyone has done a study on the increase in numbers of accidents in retail parking lots this time of year because of people rushing around and not paying attention?

What happened to the holiday cheer?  Have the holidays become just another candy-wrapper and ribbon occasion, to be lauded in public but dreaded in private?

I certainly hope not.  The holiday season — regardless of which one(s) you celebrate — is about hope, about love, about harmony.  In fact, if you only “believe” in the secular concept of Christmas, it’s still about sharing with friends and family, of getting together, of enjoying one another.  So why, during this time, is it so difficult to get outside ourselves and our own pressures and worries, and focus on spreading a little warmth, kindness and care?

How about a few simple ideas:  next time you’re shopping for a gift at a store, go out of your way to be nice to the clerk. Compliment him or her on their hard work — it’s tough to be in retail during the holidays with all the craziness workers have to deal with. Or, take a moment to thank the UPS delivery person or Postal Carrier — they are lugging as much mail as Santa these days.  Hold the door open for someone loaded down with packages and wish them a heartfelt “Happy Holiday” as they pass by.  I just had a store clerk wish me a “Merry Christmas” as I was finished paying and I was so surprised! I managed to smile and say “Thank you” but I was nearly shocked. (Ok, I know you think that person was taking a risk because “Merry Christmas” isn’t exactly PC, but I’ve already written about that in a previous post).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, as nephew Fred admonishes his Uncle Ebenezer Scrooge about “keeping Christmas well,” what they mean is to keep Christmas in your heart.  And, you can certainly substitute any holiday custom or belief for “Christmas,” as you desire.  The idea is the same — peace to mankind, belief in a world of light and love, the goal to share prosperity and kindness, particularly to those who have none.  And if that means going an extra mile to be extra nice, even when others are rushed and harried, well, isn’t that what this holiday is about?

To quote a phrase from a popular song, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”  I’m not responsible for other people’s actions, but I am responsible for mine. Let’s make it a goal to spread a little extra joy and goodwill toward our fellow man, not just this holiday season, but all throughout the year.

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