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Red Flags

Red Flags

At some point “socialist” became a dirty word in this country. You get tarred with it and you’re regarded with some suspicion and downright hostility. I suppose there are some mitigating circumstances for this; after all, it was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It was the National Socialist German Workers Party whose German name became shortened to Nazi. Neither one of them distinguished themselves for their humanitarianism.

A lot of Americans think of socialism as being the next step to communism in the same way marijuana leads to, in their minds, harder drugs. Yes, it’s a gateway economic philosophy. The next thing you’re calling everyone comrade and abolishing religion.

The truth is that there are all sorts of types of socialism just like there are many different types of capitalism. There’s hardcore socialism in which the state owns all businesses (which is essentially the last step before full-blown communism) and then there’s social democracy in which the state provides social services (i.e. health care, postal and phone services, television networks and so on) while business remains privatized. This seems to be the most successful socialist system to my mind with Sweden and Canada both practicing it and having robust economies. It is also the direction China is trying to move in to a large degree albeit without the democracy portion.

I have rapidly begun to move in that direction myself. And yes I was like a lot of you who grew up thinking socialism was a bad thing. My father preached it to me. As a refugee from Cuba, he had particular reason not to have any love for a system that to his mind had betrayed his homeland and exchanged one dictatorship for another. He married a woman whose grandfather had fled Russia (or more accurately, the Ukraine which was part of Russia at the time) because of a communist takeover there. I grew up in a household in which there was personal experience with countries that had suffered through a conversion from capitalism to communism (or more to the point from a despotic monarchy to something more despotic). Needless to say my attitude towards anything socialistic was to say the least hostile.

But as I grew up, it soon became apparent that capitalism is far from perfect. There are far too many opportunities for abuse. While I agree it is the least objectionable to most economic philosophies, I don’t worship at its altar the way some do. I also don’t believe it can’t be improved upon.

I have come to change my philosophy about government as well. My dad had always had tendencies towards anarchy – no government whatsoever. He also understood that there were certain basic services that only a government could provide – an infrastructure for business to be conducted, education so that the country could remain competitive and innovative, a military to protect the citizenry from foreign and domestic threats – and that those services needed to be paid for through taxation. My father didn’t object to paying taxes, but he thought taxes should be lower because the services a government should provide should be less. My father didn’t believe in safety nets.

It wasn’t until after he passed away that I began to question my long-held beliefs. I’d always felt that there had been a discrepancy in them. I’d always felt vaguely uncomfortable that backing conservative precepts and the Republican party was potentially wrong. I always wondered if it was the liberals and the Democrats who weren’t exercising the compassion I longed to see in government.

It was the second Bush administration that finally woke me up. I saw a conservative government that was trampling on the constitutional rights of its people willy-nilly and using terrorism as an excuse to do that very thing. I saw an administration that believed in torture as a legitimate means of fighting its war on terror. I saw a government whose allegiance was to the wealthy and whose attitude towards the poor was that they existed to provide cheap labor for businesses whose sole existence was to provide wealth for their owners. I watched business, whose watchdogs were systematically dismantled and deregulated, take an economy that had been leading the world and bring it down into the worst crisis since the Great Depression.

I realized then that government had different responsibilities than I had always believed. While yes, I still believe that government should interfere in the lives of its citizens as little as possible, it has the responsibility to provide its citizens with the opportunities to pursue success as well. It has always been our common belief that in America, anyone can achieve success if they are willing to work hard and be innovative. The truth is that success now is mostly inherited; small companies face a terrible uphill climb to become successful and the people who create and invent are rarely the people who profit from their creations and inventions no matter how hard they work – often it is the financiers who reap the benefits. Legal recourse shouldn’t be the sole domain of the wealthy.

Neither should health care be. We define the basic rights of every individual of this country as those quoted in the Declaration of Independence – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But what defines those things? To me, good health is a necessary component. Nobody should be forced to endure sickness and disease because they can’t afford to see a doctor.

That doesn’t mean I believe in Obamacare. Actually I believe in something far more radical – socialized medicine. I believe America should have a system like France, Canada, Denmark – heck what most of the world enjoys. There are those who point at long waits for physician visits in those countries to which I say that they are no longer than those who wait for months to see a specialist here. I also don’t think medicine should be a for-profit business and that medical insurance should be rendered unnecessary.

There are those who will disagree. There are those who think that medicine like everything else should be on the free market system. You’re wrong. Your health care should not be based on how profitable your care is or is not. You deserve better than the lowest common denominator of health care. If you’re going to pay your entire life into a system, that system should not then deny you the care your physician prescribes based on expense.

I find it ludicrous that the people who complain that government is too inept and bureaucratic to administrate your health care don’t seem to find it too inept and bureaucratic to administer your defense. I also find it that those people who complain about social welfare programs aren’t above obtaining government grants to help them go to college, or start a business or aid their business when it needs it. Apparently the government should only give aid to those who deserve it.

I believe the government should give aid to those who need it. Are there abuses in the social welfare system? You bet. There are also abuses in the military, in religious institutions, educational facilities basically anywhere you find humans. That’s what we do. We find loopholes and take advantage of them.

That doesn’t mean we should deny the millions of people who need help – the single moms, the disabled who are unable to work, the children who have been abandoned by their parents – and who don’t take undue advantage of the system. Those who take advantage should be punished on an individual basis. An entire social strata shouldn’t be punished because they need help.

Yes, I am a socialist in many respects. I believe that a government should behave with compassion towards the less fortunate. I believe that a government should encourage innovation and excellence and give those people the opportunity through low-interest small business loans to grow their businesses which can then become economic engines for that country – investments into that government’s own future prosperity, you might say. I believe that the role of government is to defend its people but not just from foreign governments and terrorists – but from rapacious businesses who choose to use their wealth to intimidate and defraud those who can’t afford to fight back. From health crises that would incapacitate a productive member of society. From hunger and want. Nobody in a country as prosperous as ours should ever go hungry.

I no longer care if I’m labeled a radical for believing in those things. So be it. I am tired of people being more concerned with their wallets than the welfare of others. I am tired of greed trumping compassion. It’s time to raise the red flag and say there’s something wrong here. It needs to change. We need to change. We deserve to have the best lives possible. We deserve opportunity and safety. In short, we deserve the American dream that the founding fathers always saw this country providing. And it’s time to stop saying we believe in Christian values and start acting on them. IF Jesus were alive today, he’d be a socialist. Don’t think so? He shared everything among his disciples. They lived in a socialist system, one far more extreme than the one I’m advocating. He healed the sick without requiring them to pay anything. He fed the hungry and helped the poor. Quite the radical, this Jesus.

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Of Kindness

What has happened to this country? Over the past several months and going back awhile if truth be told, the invective and vitriol spewed not only by candidates but by ordinary people has been as vicious as it’s ever been. Not only that but politeness and civility seem to be almost extinct; it’s more an item for comment when someone treats you with courtesy than when someone does not.

Then again, I’m not completely sure that Americans in general have had a worldwide reputation for treating others with kindness. We are confronted by the image of the Ugly American, particularly abroad. Rude, ignorant, insensitive – these are all traits I’m seeing when reading political posts online. Not so much from the people posting, although there is some of that among those who are supposed to be educated and literate – no, I’m talking about the responses, the comments that are made by regular people.

Newspapers at one time would receive Letters to the Editor in response to political columns and they would ordinarily not print those that were hateful and some wouldn’t print those that were simply embarrassing to the person writing them, but the Internet has no such editors. No, the beauty and the ugliness of the Internet is that you get the raw feed – whether it be pure, pristine and sweet or disgusting sewage. Often the worst ones are loaded with spelling and grammatical errors, which further deepens my depression; apparently our own citizens can’t be bothered to write in proper English which is to my understanding their native language.

But back to that kindness thing. We have become a nation of self-justifiers. Nobody shows me any courtesy, goes the reasoning, so why should I show it to anyone else? I will admit that this particular thought process has invaded my reasoning from time to time, particularly when I read some rude screed that violates my political sensibilities. Should I be nice to Conservatives who are blatantly acting like boobs? Or should I give back what they are dishing out? On too many occasions, the latter has won out.

It is far easier to be self-centered than it is not to be, or at least it appears that way on the surface. The truth is that it doesn’t really take much effort to be kind. Sometimes just stopping a moment to ask someone if they are all right is all it takes. Asking your wife if she wants something from the kitchen if you’re going there anyway really makes no additional drain on your time. Even going to the fridge if she remarks “Gee, I’m thirsty” although you had no plans to go yourself and get something can brighten up her day immeasurably. Acts of kindness make people feel like they matter. It is a powerful feeling indeed.

Acts of kindness also give you a sense of empowerment for that very same reason. You feel good about yourself, and good about who you are. You feel a sense of accomplishment by being kind – you’ve made someone’s day and that shouldn’t be underestimated. It can be a small thing – a gesture or a smile – or something more elaborate. It can be going out of your way to pick someone up from work, or spending the day helping them paint their house. It can be bringing over some chicken soup when they’re sick, or sitting up all night with them when they’re suffering.

I can understand the reluctance of some to be kind. After all, it happens often enough that acts of kindness are rewarded with indifference or even disdain. “No good deed goes unpunished” is sadly a truism far too often. Sometimes people get a little gun-shy about doing something nice for someone; so often it winds up biting us in the derrière.

Still, this kind of thing flies in the face of the philosophy we’re supposed to admire – that of Jesus Christ. You know, the whole turn the other cheek thing. It sounds easy enough when we’re talking about it in theory but a whole lot harder in practice. The point is, we’re supposed to do the right thing even when it isn’t the easy thing. Even when people take it for granted or worse, take advantage of it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating we turn into schmucks and lie down like a piece of carpet for those who take your kindness and twist it to your advantage. By all means call them on their behavior and let the world know they’re schmuck-like behavior isn’t to be tolerated. And treat those people with wariness. Sure you’re supposed to turn the other cheek but nobody said anything about taking a beating.

Acts of kindness shouldn’t be an exception. They shouldn’t be an endangered species, a rarity so remarkable that we are astonished when they occur to us. The trouble is that we often miss the opportunities to show kindness because we’re too busy looking out for ourselves. Kindness doesn’t necessarily require you to go that far out of your way, although those acts are a special sort of kindness and get you a whole lot more karma points. However, kindness requires a commitment on your part to be kind and to live a life in which that is your modus operandi. It means setting aside your instincts which are for self-interest and see the world as a larger place, one in which acts of kindness are cumulative and multiply accordingly.

One act of kindness often leads to another, and then to another and so on. These things can take on a life of their own and reverberate throughout a multitude of lives. Send enough of those things spinning through the ether and who knows where it might lead. Maybe a kinder, gentler society. One built of kindness. I for one could do with that.

Common Threads

We are more like than unalike. We have so much in common that we actually take it for granted. We dwell instead on cultural differences, lifestyle differences, gender differences. We spend more time looking for the things that divide us than we do celebrating the things that unite us.

I suppose that’s only human. We have a need to feel unique and we look for ways that emphasize our uniqueness. Unfortunately, we tend to do that the lazy way – by asserting that those who are different than us are inferior, making us feel better about ourselves and our many faults.

Being unique doesn’t make us better. It just makes us ourselves. We’re not perfect – but we don’t have to be. Honestly, it’s okay to be flawed. You’re overweight? That’s okay – just try to eat better and exercise more. You’re a terrible housekeeper? No problem – hire somebody or just do the best you can. No time management skills? You can always take a class or find methods on the internet to help you organize your time better.

But even if you don’t ever correct your flaws that doesn’t make you a bad or even a weak person. It just makes you a human. And that’s one thing we all have in common – our humanity, both good and bad. We have a tremendous capacity to do horrible things to one another – and an equally tremendous capacity to transcend those base instincts and do the right thing, or even better.

The genocide in Rwanda is one such example. On the one hand, horrible atrocities were committed and thousands upon thousands of lives were brutally lost. On the other hand, the Rwandans are now trying to unite, reconcile and forgive one another. They are looking to live as one people rather than two artificially constructed tribes. They share a common language and a common heritage. More importantly, they share their basic human values – they love their families, hope for a better future and want to be loved.

We all share those values, even those we despise. The 1% share those things. Racists share those things. Homophobes share those things. Now, there are always exceptions; certain sociopaths lack the ability to love, the desire to be loved and have instead a desire to inflict pain. Those are not the rule, however and they are pretty rare.

Our humanity stretches across cultural lines. We all value our children and take great steps to protect them. That’s true in the most primitive circumstances as well as the most sophisticated urban environments. It doesn’t matter your skin tone or which plumbing you have, nor which religion you observe (if any) or what political party you belong to. Push comes to shove, nearly every human being alive will do about anything to protect their children, even lay down their lives if need be.

So why is it when we have so much in common that we spend so much time trying to tear each other apart? Not just in this country but everywhere? Why can Arabs and Jews find any common ground? Why not gays and straights? Baptists and Atheists? Why must we find reasons to ridicule, to fear, to hate? Why is accepting the differences of others so bloody hard?

Because we have it in our minds that accepting the differences of someone else makes us somehow less important, less special. That’s a mistaken concept however; accepting those differences makes us more special. It gives us more importance in the cosmic scheme of things. It brings us closer to perfection. If someone is a black lesbian Atheist pro-Choice from Senegal, I believe that in the heart of the creator I believe in they are no less loved than a pro-Life Baptist housewife from Texas. And vice versa. Those who disagree with me, are different than me, are even repugnant to me are still as human as me. As long as they do no harm, they deserve all the respect and dignity that I can afford them.

Delivering on that idea is often difficult and I’m no more adept at it than most of you. Sometimes, I gnash my teeth when I hear Sarah Palin talk about the need for drilling, or the President of Iran shouting about how America is Satanic. There are times I find it hard to hold to my heart those who discriminate against women, gays, African-Americans or Jews.

But if God loves these people no less, doesn’t following that example please Him? There are lots of people who say “Love the sinner, hate the sin” and while we might quibble whether homosexuality is a sin or not, the sentiment is at least understandable although it’s very difficult for me to hate the sin. Loving the person while not condoning their actions is easier for me to wrap my head and heart around and that’s where I tend to be more successful.

I may consider Rush Limbaugh to be a lot of things and I disagree with his politics and most of his opinions whole-heartedly but I don’t hate the man and I certainly don’t think he shouldn’t have the right to air his opinions. After all, you have the right to change the channel if you don’t like what he has to say and sooner or later if enough people do that he will have to find other means to communicate his message. I also consider Bill Maher to be a lot of things and I agree with his politics and most of his opinions whole-heartedly, but on a human level I give Rush Limbaugh the same consideration and respect I give Bill Maher, even if I think Maher is smarter and his politics more closely align with mine. That’s because at the end of the day Bill Maher is no better and no worse than Rush Limbaugh, the same as George W. Bush is no better and no worse than Barack Obama or my Uncle Jerry is no better and no worse than my Uncle Alex.

We are all made up of the same chemical components, the same physiological structure. We all travel through time in a linear fashion, from the beginning of lives to their ends and we all hope and dream of something better or at least different. We all reach out in some way for the things we need, be they other people or solitude. We all walk the Earth – some in wheelchairs, some in scooters but we all travel this land in some fashion. We all laugh, cry, despair and hope. We all have the capacity for love and for forgiveness as well as for hate and for vengeance. We all have the ability to choose the right thing, although we don’t always do it.

We all are one species, given one lifetime to figure things out. How much better would this world be if one of the things we figured out was just that? What could we accomplish as a people if we spent more time helping each other instead of finding reasons to hate? There is a dream worth aspiring to, one voiced by many of our most revered and beloved people, from Martin Luther King to Gandhi to Christ. A dream where we live together not in suspicion, fear and hatred but in acceptance, love and tolerance. Rodney King may not be the kind of thinker those men are but he may have put it the most articulately; can’t we all just get along? Well, can’t we?

Christmas Presence

It’s hard to look at the world around us and see a reason to celebrate the season. Corruption, greed and selfishness seem to be all around us, from the CEOs on down. None of us are immune; we all seem more inclined to act in our own self-interest than in looking out for the general welfare of the human condition. I’m no different than anyone else.

And yet we wrap ourselves in ribbons of self-righteous piety. We profess our love of people and yet we turn our backs on them continuously. We vote for those who claim they will lower our taxes and who will axe social services. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow wider and more profound and our quality of life has suffered tremendously. These days, even shelter is not a given anymore.

Christmas 2010 finds our country, our people and our planet at its most dire in human history. That’s a bit of a bold statement considering the dark times our world has weathered in the past, with war, plague and disasters economic, man-made and natural all besetting our species, and yet it is a statement I truly believe. We are at a turning point in our history, one in which we will determine who are species is and what we stand for.

It is easy to listen to Christmas carols while shopping for the latest electronic trinkets for our loved ones and say we are in the Christmas spirit. It is easy to go to church and listen to a priest or pastor sermonize from the pulpit about what it means to be Christian. How much harder is it to actually live by the ideals that Christ himself embodied, one in which we put others before ourselves. Others whom we may not necessarily like or whose lifestyles we may not necessarily agree with.

It’s not an easy thing to ask, and I feel a bit of a hypocrite bringing it up. I feel deep anger for the people who exploit the general population for their own gains and cause untold suffering and grief in order for themselves or their corporation to profit just a little bit more. I feel deep anger for the people themselves who have become so apathetic that they have allowed this situation to occur. I feel deep anger for the media who have abrogated their responsibility to keep the population informed in exchange for selling more newspapers or advertisements, for putting the bottom line ahead of their mandate to be watchdogs and whistleblowers. We are all partially to blame for the predicament we’re in because it is easier to numb out than it is to be informed.

Our future is very much in doubt. Our children are more interested in instant gratification than in accomplishment. Internet surfing, social networking and video gaming are more important to them than preparing themselves for the future. We are leaving them a world that’s a mess economically and ecologically, and they are in no position to do anything about it. Sometimes it seems to me that as a species, we’ve given up.

And yet I can’t bring myself to believe that it’s all over for us, that the future of our species will be determined by nations in the East. America is far too noble an experiment, far too important a concept to be lost to our own greed and avarice. Freedom is a precious commodity and we are its beacon, like it or not. We have the responsibility to protect it, nurture it and pass it on to the generations that succeed us.

Despite all the rampant self-interest and cynicism that seem to be drowning our nation in ennui and angst, I still harbor hope that our own basic goodness, the things inside us that bring us closer to the divine can still win out in the end. It is at this time of year that the shackles of hatred, oppression and greed can be broken at least to some degree with hope, love and unity. I truly believe it is within us to rise up against those who would oppress us and say “We will stand for this no longer.” I believe that it is within us to accept those who we would reject, to embrace those who are without hope and to stand with those who cannot stand on their own.

Christmas is a time of family but it is also a time of hope and renewal. I grow weary of the economic aspects of the holiday – you cannot buy your way into heaven after all. There is nothing wrong with showing your love for someone by getting them what they want, but is that all we are? A nation of consumers whose fondest dreams are all about the hottest gift items at Best Buy? Can’t we do better than that?

I remember reading a story about a group of young people who instead of giving and receiving presents at Christmas instead went out and bought blankets and jackets and gave them away to homeless people who needed protection from the cold. Those kids are my heroes and the hope that reside in my heart that things have a possibility of getting better. They lead by example; they aren’t lip service Christians but rather those who actually walk the walk. I wish I was more like them.

My abilities lie in the written word. I can use them to inspire and move, and hopefully someone somewhere might actually feel motivated to make a difference in the world, in the lives of those around them. For my part, I can only give of my time and the resources available to me to help bring up someone who needs a helping hand, be it by lending a shoulder to lean on or an ear to vent to. I may not necessarily have the stamina to go out and build houses with Habitat for Humanity, or the physical ability to stand and serve the homeless in a soup kitchen which are things when I was younger I could do; instead I can do the things I can to make the world around me a better place.

I’ve spent a lot of time bitching about the world around us, and perhaps that isn’t in keeping with the holiday spirit but what I am trying to get across is that we can do better. The problems and challenges before us are not insurmountable if we have the will to make things better and the willingness to stand up and refuse to submit to what we are given. We deserve better and we have the opportunity to make things better if we are willing to stand up and fight for it with the same passion that we fight in World of Warcraft or Halo Online.

In the final analysis, it isn’t the things we have that define us, it’s the love inside us that makes us who we are. Christmas isn’t about things, or lights, or carols; it’s about the best part of us, the part that is divine in all of us. Our legacy doesn’t have to be one of greed and destruction of our environment; it can be one of working together to make our world better for future generations, for giving them a chance to create a world in which war, poverty, hunger and disease are as much a part of the history books as pyramids, chariots and steam engines. I believe in that future and our ability to bring it to pass.

Christmas is a time of hope. We celebrate the birth of Christ, who is one of the most influential humans who ever lived. His message of love has reverberated down through the ages and continues to inspire and influence two thousand years after the fact. Whether you believe in his divinity or not, it is his message that anyone can get behind; loving your fellow man and helping those in need. We are only as strong as the weakest among us; there are none of us stronger than those who bend down to help someone up. My prayer this Christmas is that all of us – all of us, every one, everywhere – put aside our thoughts of presents and possessions and remember that the one born this day made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may one day potentially become the divine within ourselves. When we tap that part of ourselves and join together, we can accomplish anything. We can even defy the rich and powerful and return the power in this country into the hands of the people who built it. If we have the will, we have the way. This Christmas, let us celebrate peace and love. In that spirit, let us strive together to make our world a better place for our children rather than stand by and let those who only want money and power destroy it. That would be the best Christmas present we could ever give our children – and ourselves.

Reason for the Season

It is one week until Christmas as I write this; the holiday season is in full swing, albeit in a more restrained manner than is usual. Driving around town, there are fewer homes with extravagant Christmas light displays than ever and retailers are glum over numbers that reflect the economic impact of the current crisis on the average consumer.

Still, I think most of us can agree that Christmas is not about displays and purchases. My wife and I are big lovers of the Christmas season and despite global warming bringing temperatures in the ‘80s (you Canadian and European readers, g’head and convert that into Celsius; I’ll wait) we still feel an inner warmth that comes from what the season represents.

One quick word; I do have a beef with the whole change from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays.” I don’t have anything against non-Christians nor do I wish to be exclusionary, but if someone were to wish me a Happy Rosh Hashanah or a Happy Ramadan, I wouldn’t be offended. Wishing somebody a Merry Christmas who doesn’t celebrate it isn’t like shooting them in the head; you just say “thank you but I don’t celebrate that holiday” and move on. Why get bent out of shape over a sincere wish for happiness just because you don’t celebrate the same way? If that kind of thing sincerely offends you, perhaps your skin needs thickening.

Okay, I mention that not just to get a pet peeve of mine off my chest (political correctness in general irritates me) but as kind of a segue into a new holiday tradition that I’ve just made up. Feel free to adopt it if you wish.

I’m not big on Christmas Cards. I used to dutifully sign and send them to my friends but I enjoyed displaying them on the mantle of my apartment (or seeing them on our piano when I lived with my mom and dad) but they also seemed to be kind of empty and moreover in these days where most communication is done electronically, somewhat outdated. I especially hated those generic newsletters that trumpeted what a superior life the senders had and generally ignored any issues or tragedies that befell. They rang of insincerity to me and felt insanely patronizing. Perhaps my skin needs thickening as well.

Still, I’ve always thought that this is a time that is inappropriate for general platitudes and generic greetings. This is a time for coming together and expressing the feelings deepest in the heart. Therefore, instead of sending Christmas cards wishing the best of the holiday season, I will be sending individual letters to my friends telling them how much they mean to me. Those of you who interact with me regularly will be getting one in the next week or so; I’ll be a busy little beaver writing them starting on the day this is published. I hope to have them sent to everyone by Christmas Eve; if you don’t get one, it doesn’t necessarily mean I think less of you but just that I ran out of time.

And in the spirit of inclusion, I’ll be sending these to my friends of different faiths and those of no religion at all as well. It isn’t about expressing one’s religious beliefs as far as I’m concerned; Christmas is bigger than the “Reason for the Season” that rabid Christians espouse this time of year and usually winds up turning me off. Yes, I get that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and it is perhaps the holiest day on the Christian calendar; however, I believe that because nearly every organized religion has some sort of celebration at the same time of the year that the season itself is universally sacred, whether you believe in Christ or not. Therefore, I intend to celebrate it universally and, I believe, correctly – celebrating the love that binds us all and has the potential to make us all better.

This isn’t meant to be a rant against those who celebrate Christmas to reflect their religious beliefs and faith – far be it for me to tell anyone how to celebrate. I’m just saying that I have grown to believe that the best way to honor Christ and his message is to practice it by sending love and compassion to as many people as I possibly can without the expectation of anything in return or without preaching or proselytizing in any way.

So grab yourself some eggnog and find yourself some mistletoe. Bathe yourself in the warmth of good feeling and fellowship with your fellow man. Reach out to everyone around you and take the hand of those who reach out to you. Take the inertia of that love and use it to fuel your lives all year round. 2009, as a rule, sucked. 2010 can be better if we choose to make it that way. Why not start now – think of someone you care about and tell them so. It doesn’t have to be written in flowery words and brilliant analogies, maybe it doesn’t have to be written at all – a hug can communicate a great deal without the use of a single word. Expressing that love for friend and family alike is more valuable than anything you can buy at Amazon, Best Buy or Wal-Mart. It may not be the Reason for the Season for some but it certainly is for me. Maybe it should be for everyone.