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ROSE NOLEN: Holidays bring out the best in people

Monday, December 13, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 10:00 p.m. CST, Monday, December 13, 2010

The sights and sounds of the Christmas season always remind me of the woman I met many years ago who kept her home decorated for Christmas year-round. She said that the Christmas season was the only time she was happy, so she decided that was the only way she had to make the mood permanent.

When I think about it, people in general do seem happier during this season. I don't know if it's because it's the time families get together, or because of the sounds of music in the air, or because of the way people dress up the landscape with lights and festive decorations. In any case, the season of spreading glad tidings of great joy makes the daily grind and struggle a lot easier to take. As someone once told me, if we didn't have a holiday season someone would have to make one up.

This has certainly been the kind of year where that would have been especially true. The hard-core unemployment problem has made it extremely difficult for many people to just get their bills paid. Having money leftover to spend on entertainment in many cases has been impossible. The housing foreclosures have continued to plague many families, so I'm sure not being able to celebrate the holidays in one's own home has added more stress with which some have had to deal.

Still, even though it has not been the best of times for some, no one seems to be apologizing for the nostalgia surrounding the season. Almost everyone you meet seems happy for the opportunity to share his or her childhood memories. People delight in telling family stories. We hear from those whose traditions called for the opening of gifts on Christmas Eve and from those who enjoyed that ceremony on Christmas mornings. I remember, for instance, the year my brother and I begged to be allowed to stay up until midnight so that we could open our gifts at one minute past 12. We were granted permission, but we found that not being surrounded by the rest of the family made it a dull, uninteresting experience, so after that we waited until Christmas morning like everyone else.

Overall, everyone seems to try as hard as possible to make the season memorable. People realize from their own experiences that as the years go by they are building the memories that will last a lifetime.

A special delight is the spirit of goodwill that accompanies these holidays. It's the time when so many individuals remember the downtrodden and impoverished. Food, clothing, toys, money and gifts are collected by dozens of organizations in communities everywhere as people share the bounty with those who have encountered misfortune.

It's hard to believe some times that in a country as rich as ours, those homeless families are sleeping on the street and our foster-care system is overburdened with children who have been abandoned. We hear stories of the frail elderly living alone who have to make a choice between medicine and food, and we are reminded that people living in those conditions are all around us.

With the country struggling economically, some communities have seen an increase in home invasions. Some have become desperate in their determination to make sure their families have a good Christmas, so they're preying on their neighbors by breaking into their homes and making off with their property.

And just as some are looking forward to decorating their tree or preparing a family feast, others are overwhelmed with depression. Families who have had tragedies during previous holiday periods sometimes suffer anniversary blues, so these days represent dark times for them. Some of these people resent the joyousness of others when they are undergoing the memories of their great troubles.

It's good to bear in mind that we are not all at the same place at the same time. Our personal experiences vary, and it's never a good idea to assume that everyone is in a partying frame of mind just because of the season.

I've been in situations where people have not had a good year, and any suggestion of frivolity of any kind set them off. For those who are planning a good Christmas, I pray your dreams come true.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.


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