“But what did we miss the first time?”
A good friend asked me this last week when we were discussing recent lockdowns due to the rise in COVID cases. I thought her inquiry appropriate, yet I had no answer for her at the time.
But now, as I am back to the oh so familiar routine of cooking more, writing at my desk — not coffee shops — working out from home, and taking long walks in nature, I am seriously contemplating possible answers to her question.
Sure, many of us have become accustomed to this new way of being — remoting from home, communicating through Zoom, and spending less time with friends or family members who live far away. While certainly not ideal, we’ve adapted and made things work, all in an effort to keep those at risk safe. But then, life lightened up, rules softened, and we experienced more freedoms. Of course, things were not normal, but they were easier, less restrictive.
However, we’re taking a step backwards as numbers rise and we wait for a vaccine to become readily available to all. Once again, we are uncertain as to what the future holds. But this time, it may not be so scary. After all, we’ve been there before and survived the numerous question marks.
But while we may not be as afraid, there is a new uncertainty we face — how do we act during the most wonderful time of the year — the holiday season? Quite honestly, I’m unsure how to proceed. What does this December look like? Of course, there won’t be holiday parties, but what about the other traditions? Do we move forward as always, or do we adjust, refrain? I have to admit that I’m quite confused.
I just ordered our Christmas cards, and it was difficult to choose a saying. I didn’t want to be morose, but the “Merry, Merry, Merry” didn’t seem appropriate right now. Too many people are suffering in a myriad of ways that do not resonate with the “Have a holly, jolly Christmas” tune.
Yet, we can’t succumb to darkness and filter all joy from sight. That is not what God would want. Perhaps balance is the answer, one that incorporates gratitude, forgiveness, and acceptance.
Looking at the past seven months, there’s been a great deal of violence, anger, and judgment in our country. While much of this has been done in the name of a higher good, it’s taken a toll on everyone. We’ve become critical of one another, feeling as though our way is the right way, the only way.
I wonder if we have become a bit too comfortable condemning the beliefs and actions of those around us. Could this be what we didn’t learn the first time? Have we forgotten how to love and respect others, especially those who think differently? In our quest to accept people regardless of their race, religion, sexuality, or culture, have we ignored an entire group of individuals – those with opposing opinions? When did we start believing that our views are the only correct answers?
As the threat of tightening restrictions loom this season, can we learn what we missed the first time? Are we able to elevate ourselves to become better people, show compassion, and shine our light? While this month may present new, uncharted challenges, how do we delight in the beauty of the holidays and be mindful of those who are suffering? Can we still be joyful while holding the sorrows of the world? And, can we accept those around us who do not believe as we do?
Dr. Seuss dealt with a similar dilemma. While COVID wasn’t stalking the residents of Whoville, the Grinch did his best to take Christmas away from these warm-hearted people. That old Grinch expected that each and every Who would become angry and sad once they awoke and saw that all of their presents, lights, trees, and feasts of Who-beasts were gone. In fact, the Grinch sat in his home at the top of Mount Crumpet, twiddling his long, bony fingers as he delighted in a vision of despair in Whoville.
But we all know that didn’t happen. Instead, the Grinch heard singing — beautiful Who voices joyfully praising the coming of Christmas — even though what the Grinch thought defined Christmas was missing.
That’s when he began to understand that Christmas was not about beautifully wrapped packages, tinseled tress, delicious feasts, or bright lights. It was something else — a sacred vision that even he couldn’t take away. Christmas was a feeling that the people of Whoville held deep in their hearts. It was pure joy. Pure light. Pure love.
And that was the day that the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes.
Maybe we are not so different from the Grinch. While we got through the spring shutdown, did our true selves really change? Did we become better people, or did we just survive, find new ways, and learn to expect less? And, did our hearts grow? If they did, could there be room for further expansion?
I think I’ve found the answer to my friend’s question — we did not fully learn to love and accept one another during the first shutdown. We are still holding judgments and fear.
But now we have another chance to grow our hearts ... if we are willing to take the necessary steps. But, do we possess the conviction to go within and examines our fears and limiting beliefs? Can we accept those who do not think as we do?
My hope is that the restrictions we experience this holiday season will expand our love so we can illuminate the darkness that’s within and surrounding us. Because when we recognize our own light and shine it brightly, we can then elevate our world.