Columns 2009

Keep the spirit year round

Given the general discord in the country right now, it would seem as though any spirit of holiday good will would have to be a positive thing, one we should foster.

If you think about it, the person a large majority of this country celebrates at this holiday time, Jesus Christ, seems to have been a fellow who not only had good will but liked celebrating good times as much as the next guy. If not, why would he have turned all that water into wine when he was a wedding guest? Talk about the perfect wedding gift!

So having good spirits and a sense of joy during the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hannukah seems appropriate, especially here in Alaska where it’s the darkest time of the year and so the time when we most need our spirits lifted.

Here’s what I don’t understand, though. During this season, everyone seems to go out of their way to be nice to others, to donate money and goods to those in need, to take the extra steps necessary to see that no one is alone or lonely. Because of this, the month between these two holidays becomes somewhat of a magical time. The spirit of goodwill fills the air and everyone is a little more patient, smiles a little more while waiting in line and generally feels their spirits somewhat lighter and gayer than at other times of the year.

So the question is how come we haven’t figured out, after centuries of celebration, that those good spirits come from the fact that everyone makes a little extra effort during this season to be a good neighbor, a good citizen and a good family member. If this works during the holiday season, wouldn’t it stand to reason that if we kept up those things that come so naturally during this holiday period, we might stand a chance of experiencing those feelings of good will throughout the year?

I will admit up front that I am a volunteer addict. I get my adrenaline rush from the work I do as a volunteer.  Maybe this is because I don’t get paid to do it but do it out of a sense of love and devotion to the cause for which I’m volunteering. Whatever the reason, the holiday spirit that so many only feel during this brief thirty day period of the year, I get to feel every week when I go into Bird TLC, put on a blue smock and start cutting up smelly fish for the injured birds.

Maybe it’s something more of us should try. Instead of just giving money to a cause or helping out at Bean’s once a year, try making it a regular part of your life.  You can’t begin to imagine how doing that will keep you going through the dark months that follow the holiday season. January and February will not seem so cold and bleak when there is this light in your life that comes every time you walk out your door to do something for someone less fortunate.

When the Bah Humbug spirit first hit me about this season many, many years ago, my mother was still alive. Being a typical mother, she immediately assumed that she must have done something wrong in my childhood for me to feel this way. She asked plaintively if she and my father hadn’t given me wonderful childhood Christmases and, if so, how could I feel this way now?

I tried to explain to her how hard it was for me to watch people discover the joy of giving for about one month each year and then go back to their “regular” lives the rest of the time as thought the hungry did not have to eat every day and the abused did not need comfort throughout the year. She looked at me and said, “But isn’t it better to do it at least once a year than never at all?”

She had a point. But I still think that doing it year round is best. Unless, of course, we figure out a way to make suffering, pain, sadness, loneliness and hunger only occur between Thanksgiving and January 1 of any given year.