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Christmas is a time to spread joy and peace

Posted: December 23, 2015 - 12:07am

I was privileged this past week to hang out with a bunch of Columbia County firefighters as they spent an afternoon helping some local children have a happier Christmas than they were destined for.

It was the best day I’ve had in a long time. About 40 firefighters paired up in teams with a child – 21 in all – to help them spend $150 on a Christmas list at the Evans Wal-Mart.

They roamed all over the store, listening patiently to requests and searching diligently for the special items on each child’s list. Many of the kids had very meager desires – a doll, a watch, a new pair of sneakers. Most of the time, they had to be encouraged to get more.

I was impressed by one 11-year-old girl who used most of her budget on one big-ticket item. No, it wasn’t a gaming system or bicycle; it was a sewing machine. She had plans to make all the clothes that were too expensive for her family to afford.

Then there was the 7-year-old boy who made sure firefighters knew he was getting gifts for his mother, father and sister, before he placed the first Christmas toy in his basket. The event was heartwarming and cheerful and just about perfect for this season. Everyone had a smile on his or her face, and I felt a little like Scrooge on Christmas Day, when he realizes he has a second chance at life and an opportunity to spread joy to those around him.

That was a good day for me because lately I haven’t been feeling that joy that usually comes with this time of year.

Perhaps that is because I work in the news business, which can be grim just about any time of year, but it is more than the usual reports about the cruelty that people can inflict on each other that has been bothering me of late. I think more and more I’m becoming sensitive to the smaller infractions – personal insults, comments and sneering remarks that I read and hear from my fellow humans each day.

I think a lot of this is because my job requires that I pay attention to social media and monitor other news outlets where people, emboldened by the anonymity that the Internet provides, feel free to say all kinds of horrible things about the people with whom they disagree.

Sure, most of this involves politics and issues of culture difference, but it is astounding how quickly some people will jump to personal attacks the minute they run across someone with a different opinion.

I’m sure you are all well aware of what I’m talking about.

No, I don’t believe that all opinions are equivalent, or that we all have to agree on everything. But there are many of us that could benefit from some basic manners and perhaps a mandatory waiting period before we respond to a comment on our Facebook page.

I’m asking everyone that before you are tempted to post that wicked insult, or snarky, condescending comeback, pause to reflect that the person on the receiving end is another human being – one of God’s children (even if they may not believe it themselves).

People aren’t labels. They aren’t right-wingers, or racists, or liberals, or moochers, or the many of names we love to use in order to diminish someone’s humanity.

That’s what is at stake here, our humanity. You can’t negate someone else’s humanity without eroding your own.

It is easy enough to wish for “peace on earth,” but the harder thing is to seek peace with our fellow man. That, however, is what people of faith are asked to do.

So, this Christmas season, here is my wish: Peace be with all of you.

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Comments (1)

Riverman1

Buy My Electronic Blips By The Barrel Full

I don't comment on Facebook and I hope I'm not one of those with constant snarky comments in the online newspaper, but I will take up for online commenters in general.

I often see media types of all kinds complaining about internet commenters. Do I sense a little disappointment that the ability to reach the masses has been shared with the public? If a comment is mean spirited the public has the ability to answer. If an editorial is mean spirited the public also has the ability to answer.

Frankly, I take it a little mean spirited you generalized that commenters are mean spirited. No doubt some are, but so are some in the media.

Using technology is a fact of life. I imagine gossiping on the telephone was a complaint in the past.

Merry Christmas