Wednesday, December 4, 2013

President's Message: Good Grief! Why Can’t The Inspiration Last Longer Than The Promotions?

By Susan Johnson-Velez

On a recent evening over dinner, my son, Julian, and I were discussing how Christmas continues to “bogart” the end-of-year holiday season ― and with ever-increasing bravado.  With each passing year, Christmas seems to seize an unfair share of the attention ― red and green decorations can be seen well before the tricking and treating have even begun.  The veritable onslaught of all things Christmas sometimes makes Thanksgiving seem like a mere bump on the holiday highway as we speed toward the end of December.  At this point, you may be getting the very wrong impression that I do not like Christmas.  But that could not be further from the truth.  I actually love Christmas ― it’s my favorite holiday.  People are filled with feelings of warmth toward fellow man, hope, peace, and joy.  We often lament the fact that sometimes these feelings and the kind acts they engender can seem as seasonal as the decorations.  What if something in the season could provide a behavioral roadmap for the entire year?

I think the source of this roadmap might be found in some of the Christmas cartoon specials of my childhood.  A few of my favorites come to mind that could do the trick.  For those of you who don’t remember the plots or who don’t continue to watch them every year as I do, here’s a brief summary:

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS – Bitter and hateful because his heart is two sizes too small, the Grinch is irritated at the thought that the Who’s in Whoville will enjoy Christmas. He thinks the enjoyment comes from all of the toys, decorations, and feasts.  With himself dressed as Santa Claus, and his dog made to look like a reindeer, the Grinch tries to keep Christmas from coming.  He raids Whoville and steals everything he thinks makes Christmas, Christmas – the presents, the lights and decorations, and even the roast beast.  Instead he learns that Christmas does not come from a store … it means a little bit more.

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER – A red-nosed reindeer who has been ostracized by all of the other reindeer (they used to laugh and call him names) teams up with an elf who wants to be a dentist and a prospector.  Together they tame the Abominable Snowman and find an island of misfit toys.  Rudolph leads Santa back to the island on that fateful, foggy Christmas Eve, and they pick up Charley-In-The-Box, the Cowboy-Who-Rides-An-Ostrich, the Spotted Elephant, and all the other misfit toys.  This Christmas, their individuality is going to be an asset.

CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS – Charlie Brown sees nothing but overwhelming materialism surrounding the season – even his dog, Snoopy, is not immune.  He struggles to find the real meaning of Christmas but is frustrated just about everywhere he looks, from the school Christmas play to the aluminum tree lot.  Finally, a little boy with his head wrapped in a blue blanket helps Charlie Brown discover the true meaning of Christmas.

So what course can these relics chart for us throughout the coming year?  First and foremost – it’s not about “the stuff.”  It’s about pretty much everything else but “the stuff,” and that’s what we should focus on.  Second – being unique can be a good thing; we should seek out and embrace the individuality in everyone.  And, finally – the very fact that we watch these cartoons reminds us of the value in being childlike (i.e., simple, trusting, and uncomplicated), at least on occasion.  I wish you safe and joyous travels as we embark on our journey toward the end of this year and the beginning of next.