Clippings: A gift for all: forgiveness, grace, charity

Tonight, after settling in at the house, I’ll re-stoke the fire, boil some tea water, turn on a CD of Christmas carols and bear down on the week’s task — addressing a few more holiday cards to send to friends and family.
I’m motivated by two factors: the early birds out there have created the necessary guilt to push me to action, and we just received our box of 100 cards — complete with family photos over the past year. Get them out now, or (in my best Jersey accent) forget-about-it.
For extra motivation, I glance at the counter of cards already received. Two friends with beaming smiles hold snappers caught while in the Seychelles — clad in shorts, sandals and a swim top, she’s got the trophy fish. His is just bigger than a small perch. You could imagine them laughing, while sending wishes of a 2014 full of laughter, adventure, love and peace.
There’s the card of the family of six whose 16-year-old son is now two inches taller than his 6’1” father, and whose three other children (two of whom I taught back flips on the tramp when they were knee-high) have grown beyond belief in our too infrequent visits.
My colleague, Jill, who does the graphics for Vermont Ski & Ride magazine and who had worked with us here at the Addy Indy, sends a great-looking family photo from Arizona where Lance has been stationed and their two boys, 5 and 7, are poised and angelic-looking — not the rowdy hoots and hollers Jill and I sometimes work through via long-distance phone calls on deadline nights.
Smiling and active grandchildren are the focus in many of the cards (better than pics of aging baby boomers, right?), demonstrating what one card aptly says in bold letters, “So Much Joy.”
Some friends travel more than others, and the places they’ve been in the past year fill you with wonder that there is so much to see and do, almost always with their universal observation that people around the world are more gracious, open and welcoming than the world news conveys.
I wonder if the positive vibe is because the holiday season — with its best wishes of hope, joy, forgiveness and peace throughout the New Year — allows us to see the world in all its elemental splendor, putting politics and pockets of hate aside and in perspective. Or maybe, I think, it’s the warm glow of the fireplace, a hot cup of tea, and time set aside to reconnect with friends and family that make the holiday season full of such good cheer.
Or maybe the spark of joy that swells inside each of us this time of year happens when we take the time to reach out to others with love, thanks and good tidings in the New Year. What we all know is that the act of giving makes us better people, friends, citizens. And when we add understanding and tolerance to the equation,  the sins of the world subside.
It’s when we’re inflexible, suspicious, ungracious, impractical, vindictive and close-minded that conversations break down, community falters and the Grinch of all things Christmas twangs the harmony and creates discord.
A respected legislator from outside Middlebury asked me this week if the lack of civility around the shire town’s municipal building-recreation facility had something to do with the economic stress of the recession that may be lingering in town. He was grasping for answers to justify the hostility demonstrated by the small cadre of very active opponents of the project. I speculated that Middlebury was most likely faring no worse than any other town in the region or state (better than many), and that the hostility came from opponents with a less-than-charitable approach to solving the declining status of the existing municipal building. The process hasn’t been perfect, recent changes may require more time to review, but the project itself is needed, affordable and well-considered after being 20 years in the making.
Relieved it wasn’t something more substantial driving the rancor, he nonetheless was concerned the town was sliding into an abyss of hostility that might linger. Maybe if we could inject a little of the Christmas spirit into the debate, we speculated, it would ease the tension and reflect better on the town. A touch of forgiveness and charity would be nice. And being thankful.
It is, after all, the season of hope.
We shrugged it off and went on to other topics of concern: natural gas pipelines, education funding, economic development and such. In retrospect, a bit more understanding, tolerance and charity on both sides would help move those issues along as well.
Imagine what might happen if proponents and opponents viewed each other as friends to which they would send a holiday greeting. Might we not then find better ways to resolve the issues ahead?
“Joy to the world, rejoice in the spirit of peace and happiness, cooperation and community,” we write to all (even the Grinch). “We wish you the warmest of holidays and good tidings in the year ahead.”

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