In a year filled with so much tragedy, conflict and antipathy we sometimes have to search hard for optimism. I went back through my columns over the past decade to remind me of the goodness of man and the reason for the season. I have borrowed liberally from those previous columns.
For our family Christmas always begins with Mass. It is one of those special days in the Catholic Church when the church is overflowing as Catholics and visitors join in celebrating the birth of Jesus over two thousand years ago.
The four weeks preceding Christmas are known as Advent in the church. It is a time during which we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ and it is a time best described as a season of hope. Our belief is that God became man in fulfillment of His promises in the Old Testament. That birth brings with it the hope that He will come again to redeem our souls. It is the belief in God and the hope for an eternal life with Him that provides purpose. A purpose that extends beyond the acquisition of comfort and material gains. A purpose that does not end with the death of one’s body.
It is in marked contrast to a secular world where hope is finite, where purpose is confined to the needs of an intellectual being – comfort, wealth, power and knowledge. Where the concepts of a prime mover, a perfect being and an eternal life are not only foreign but ridiculed. A world in which trust and expectation are placed solely in man –an imperfect being. A world in which we are regularly disappointed at best and enslaved at worst by those in power and those who seek power.
The most disappointing aspect of the secularists’ vision of the world is that this is all there is. It is a world in which expectations are finite, suffering is inevitable and redemption is unknown. It is a world tightly constricted into the life span of each of us. It is a life that no matter how virtuously led ends with death. In the end it is a life with limited and temporal hope.
In contrast, our hope is rooted in a spiritual world, a belief in an eternal life and a hope that in the end we will be reunited with The Perfect Being. That hope is not confined to our personal destiny. It extends to all of mankind.
Christmas Day, December 25, is the day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is of little consequence as to whether His birth occurred precisely on December 25th because it is the totality of His life, His teachings, and His sacrifice that form the foundation of Christianity. And nowhere are His teachings more reflected than in the random acts of kindness by humankind – Christian or not.
There are the acts like New York Police Officer Larry DePrimo buying shoes for a barefoot, homeless man at the beginning of winter several years ago. Or the more compelling story of Garrett Thompson in my former home in Helena, Montana, as related by KTVQ:
“Garrett Thompson of Helena was the recipient of a random act of kindness this week, and now he’s paying it forward.
“He said that a woman approached him candidly at Jimmy John’s on Monday and handed him an envelope, turned around, and then left.
“When he opened the envelope, he found a note attached to five dollars.
“The note read that this person was doing 26 random acts of kindness to honor the memory of the 26 people killed in last week’s Connecticut shootings, and he was number 26.
“Thompson said, “You know, it’s pretty cool to have such a tragedy like that kind of spark interest in people to do good things and kind of renew people’s human spirit. It was pretty touching.”
“Garrett has already passed on the kindness by picking up the tab for some complete strangers at Starbucks.
“He hopes that these acts of kindness become contagious.”
Each of us can include our own list and hopefully each will include an act and not just an observation by us.
The progress in human relations is measured by your treatment of others. It is not measured by governments, or power, or wealth. It is as simple as a new pair of shoes for a barefoot man and as complex as a child’s unshakeable belief in Santa Claus.
We wish you a very Merry Christmas. We hope that you take every opportunity to engage in a random act of kindness.