TGIF: Making preparations for a Christmas that won’t be like others
‘Twas the week before Christmas,
when all through the land,
not a creature was merry,
things won’t be so grand.
OK, so I’m not a poet. My deepest apologies to Clement Clark Moore, who most definitely was a poet.
For all the upheaval that the year 2020 has brought, at least one thing seems unchanged — for me, I mean. Here we are, seven days away from Christmas morning, and I don’t feel prepared. However, I am less stressed about it, because I’m letting some of the things I usually try to do before Christmas simply fall by the wayside.
It’s that kind of year.
As this is being written, I haven’t even bought Christmas stamps from the Post Office. That’s a task I usually schedule for late November. It seems likely there won’t be many Christmas cards going out this year, either. If you usually get a card from our household, and even if you don’t, consider this your greeting this year: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Let me emphasize something: A very happy new year. We need it.
Christmas is a time when we look back not only on previous Christmases, but also on everything that’s transpired since the last time stockings were hung by the chimney with care (in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there).
To be honest, I need to retreat a bit from my opening rhyme. The term “merry” is relative. Compared to the type of Christmas season some are experiencing, I don’t have anything to complain about.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans are out of a job because of COVID-19. I gave up my job when I retired eight years ago.
Also, many more are facing a new year of forced homelessness, because job losses or cutbacks cost them the means to pay their rent. We’re blessed to have a roof over our heads.
Perhaps most significant is the realization that an increasing number of Americans will end the new year with losses that can never be replaced. If the job market rebounds and Americans return to work and can pay rent, conditions should return to normal. However, “normal” will be forever different for many.
In addition to the deaths of family and friends that happen in any normal year, the toll has been escalating because of the virus. Compounding the tragedy is the fact that loved ones are necessarily restricted from being with them as they lived their final days.
And while some are struggling without gainful employment, others find themselves working overtime and more. Consider the selfless service of health care professionals for whom there aren’t enough hours in the day to take care of everyone. What’s more, staffing is limited due to quarantines after they themselves are exposed to the virus on the job.
The situation has become so dire that the work overload is now affecting those who work in the funeral industry. It’s a sad state of affairs.
No, none of us was ready for this, and dealing with such overwhelming issues takes the sparkle and glitter out of many Christmas celebrations — assuming those events weren’t cancelled.
While the circumstances of Christmas 2020 are unprecedented in our lifetimes, it’s important that we carry on in whatever ways possible. That trip to see relatives may have to wait. That big family dinner may need to be scaled back. Computer visits may replace in-person gatherings. Some worship services — so important for Christians this time of year — may have to be held remotely as well.
But many of the other things we might do, even in a pandemic, are still possible, and with so many other plans cancelled, we might have the time to do them. We can provide meals for the hungry, consolation for those grieving, and compassion for those who are anxious as a result of the consequences of COVID-19.
These are the things we should be doing throughout the year, of course, but they are things that are especially important at Christmas. Christmas is, after all, about giving, and the best gifts to share are hope, peace, joy, and love.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “TGIF” appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.