Gratitude in a time of COVID
It’s the holiday season! You have a choice of over 30 holidays between mid-November and mid-January. Some are religious-oriented like Hanukkah, Christmas, and Diwali while others are cultural-based holidays, such as Kwanzaa. As mentioned in an earlier social media post, I enjoy watching CBS Sunday Morning. Last Sunday’s episode featured a segment on kindness -- not just as a random act, but as a commitment. A high school teacher in California was highlighted; she is teaching a world religions class. The common theme of all religions is ultimately love, so she is teaching the class from that lens.
So with that message and spirit of love and interconnectedness, please keep reading.
We are Catholic and celebrate Christmas. I love decorating for Christmas -- we have different themes and scenes in our home. We have several nativity sets, the city scene from A Christmas Story, Clark Griswold’s glowing house from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree and friends, and even Purdue snowmen and Santas. Classic animated Christmas television specials and Christmas movies also brighten the season. We loved watching the 2020 Purdue Christmas Show when it was broadcast online this weekend. When I was an undergraduate, I sang and danced in several Shows.
One of my favorite parts of the season is also Christmas books. We have an entire shelf in our bonus room with Christmas picture books. Some of my favorites show more wear and tear than others. I still have The Poky Little Puppy’s First Christmas book my parents gave me in 1977.
Perhaps it’s appropriate that I mentioned singing in the Purdue Christmas Show, as one of my favorite books was actually introduced by my high school choir director, the late Judy Meeks. Most high school teachers don’t read picture books to their students, but Mrs. Meeks wasn’t like most teachers. Each year, on the last day before winter break, she read aloud, A Cup of Christmas Tea. It’s become one of my favorite books and a special reminder of those to whom we don’t say thank you enough.
It’s the story of a young man who is busy getting ready for the holidays when he receives a letter from his great aunt, inviting him to visit. She had a mild stroke that year and is no longer able to drive. His parents encourage him to find the time. Finally, he reluctantly and nervously goes to visit. Upon her opening the door and welcoming him inside, “She took me by the hand, and all my fears dissolved away, as if by her command.” Her house is brightly decorated, just as he always remembered with the special nativity set and wooden toy soldiers he loved as a child. As they talked, his memories of past Christmases came rushing back and he realizes the miracle of Christmas and a triumph of the soul -- that being with family and those we love is the most important part of the holiday. It’s also a powerful reminder to thank those who have impacted our lives -- teachers, coaches, mentors, and those who have encouraged us along the way.
Christmas 2020 may seem different this year as we have limited (if any) interactions with those outside our immediate families. But we can look to the triumph of the soul described in A Cup of Christmas Tea and know that our memories, new and old, are still there. We have more memories to make with our families and loved ones. Whether it’s a phone call to an old friend, a note to a teacher, or a zoom family gathering, we can still share in this season of love and joy.