Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Musings

It's the 24th of December and I've been up since 6am with back pain that just won't quit. The throbbing in my muscles eventually forced me from bed and down to the chilly living room. Drat! A paid day off and I can't sleep late.

I say it's a paid day off---which it is---but today I "double-dip" because I was called in to work at my new hospice position for a portion of the day to cover for a sick home health aide. The hospice is one workplace where I would not mind being today. Being a very homey atmosphere, festive with the holiday spirit, it's a place where the work of service seems somehow easier to abide on a holiday. Illness and the work of dying never take a day off, and the people who come to hospice deserve nothing but the best.

Even as some lay dying---either here in New England or in Baghdad---the celebration of the holiday season continues. While many are blind or deaf to the suffering around them, many indeed note the disparities of wealth and health around the world and take a moment to give thanks for their own good fortune.

Even as the storm of rampant consumerism threatens to overtake the true meaning of the season, a good many of us realize that there are ways to give and ways to consume that do less damage, wreak less environmental havoc, and possibly even contribute positively to the world rather than simply adding to the mountains of junk choking our lives and landfills.

In a newly released film, What Would Jesus Buy, Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir travel the country to preach to the masses about the misguided commercialism and consumerism that does indeed threaten to consume us all. Criss-crossing the country in biodiesel buses, Billy uses guerilla tactics to infiltrate the epicenters of American consumerism and enlighten the masses about the consequences of their actions. While some may take offense to Billy's faux religious trappings, his point is clear: blind consumerism with no thought to its human, environmental and economic implications is devastating the planet and the people living upon it.

Despite it all, I was raised with Christmas in the context of an utterly secular Jewish household, and I still experience that warm nostalgic feeling at this time of year. Having married someone who was raised Catholic, Christmas has always been a part of our family's tradition, and continues to be so to this day. This year, the majority of our gifts were donations to various charitable organizations in honor of our friends and family: high efficiency cookstoves for Darfuri refugees, "adoption" of endangered animals, etcetera. Still, we are consumers, and we simply try to consume consciously and cautiously.

At this time of year, we also tend to look back at the last twelve months, take stock of our lives, our choices, our failures and successes, and make plans for the coming year. For myself, the theme for the new year is one of self-care, stress reduction, improved health and well-being, and increased self-awareness coupled with increased awareness of the world around me. Since I will be leaving my job where I have been daily exposed to the trauma and challenges of inner city life, I plan to make sure that I stay connected with the struggles of those who live with less, and continue to contribute however I can to the fight for equality, equity, and parity in all areas of life and society. Even if one withdraws from daily battle on the front lines, a supportive role can still be effective.

So, dear Reader, I am wishing you well today as you prepare for your day, whether tomorrow is a meaningful day for you (religiously or culturally), or simply just another day off from work and school. In the wise and simple words of Garrison Keillor, "Be well, do good work, and stay in touch".

See you soon.







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