A Christmas Card (2011)
I have had to do some real soul searching in order to write this Christmas card. This year, in particular, it's easy to focus on the negative. I say this not only because I have family members that are unemployed and having a very difficult time finding work, but because I hear so many voices from so many people every day discussing their situations with perfect strangers. I listen to these voices that I hear on the bus and on the train when I am commuting to work. People are having conversations, sharing their woes, finding solidarity with perfect strangers. These strangers on the bus, our brethren, look a bit more bedraggled this year than last year. Their shoes are worn, they are missing essential items like gloves to keep them warm, and there are fewer shopping packages. It's personal too. The leadership at the hospital where I work sent out a very disheartening email letting all employees know that they are laying off anywhere from 500-700 people in the new year. They want to be honest.
People are struggling. It does not feel as if one can do much in the face of all of this. It feels bigger than us and out of our control. So, I am approaching this Christmas season moment by moment. I'm letting it all soak in. All of it. The good. The bad. I just read in the Oregonian this morning (Portland) that churches and other groups are lobbying for the city to allow car camping in their parking lots, and it looks as if Portland is going to allow this. It's good news in that those who are living out of their cars will have someplace to park without being displaced and/or fined. The bad news is that this signals a homeless crisis that is pretty out of control. In fact, it is. In Portland alone, homelessness has risen 8% in the past year. There are people with children living in those cars. They used to celebrate Christmas. They used to buy presents to put under the tree. Now, getting a meal and a shower and finding someplace to use the restroom in the morning and a bite to eat are the main things on their minds. Moment to moment. Many of us are only paychecks away from homelessness. Today, I am not. I sit in a warm apartment, with a hot cup of coffee, a small sweetly decorated Christmas tree, and internet access. I am grateful.
You may think I digress. After all, this is a Christmas card, not a state of the union address. I do not digress. Even though Christmas is now a civil and cultural holiday around the world that for some involves shopping, copious gifts, along with too much food and drink, it was originally a religious holiday to celebrate a man who was born homeless and who remained homeless. A humble beginning. It is in this spirit that I celebrate Christmas this year. A bit humbled, and hopefully with a bit of humility, remembering the good fortune that I do have, and celebrating it moment by moment.
May you and yours be together, and be warm, this Christmas.