Today I received in the snail mail a Christmas card from a family I hadn’t heard from in ages. I don’t believe they’d sent me Christmas cards in a while, but, with my ADHD, they may well have, only I didn’t manage to take note of them. I knew them pretty well when I knew them, well enough for them to take my sons and me skeet and pistol shooting, an exciting first for all three of us.
The family, which in addition to a mom and a dad, boasts no less than five of what were boys when I knew them, now all men. It—they—are one of the most wonderful families I’ve ever met. I lost touch with them in the way people inadvertently lose touch with people, by mistake, too much to keep up with, a relationship that receded, into memory as relationships not tended to, do.
But the Christmas card brought it all back as if we’d just put away the pistols and were piling into the car, all together. On the card there was a resplendent photo from the wedding of one of the boys, now a man. Gathered all together in one brilliant and jubilant shot were 17 people: mom, dad, the five sons, and the bride, four additional women, be they wives of the men or girlfriends I couldn’t tell. But they’d been prolific, as five children also populated the photo, ranging from what appeared to be about five years old to what seemed five months.
They were all beautiful, in the best sense of that word, full of beauty, both inner as well as outer. I am not being polite when I say that mom and dad looked exactly as I remember them, not having aged a day. All their children and grandchildren and daughters-in-law, all their flowers, formal attire, and gorgeous gowns and dresses popped out of the card like an organ peal of love.
When I looked at the card, the word that came to my mind was “festivity”. What a festive event that wedding must have been. What a festival of all-things-good that family has turned life into, not only for them, but for their friends, their businesses, their community, their schools, and just about everyone they touch.
I kicked myself for having lost touch with them, and as I noticed the return address on the card, I determined to write to them asap. Of course, I don’t know what’s been going on with them in the years since I knew them, what difficulties they may have faced, what losses endured, what sadness, what grief. But, knowing them, they have turned whatever hardship into connection, generosity, and growth.
As Christmas draws nigh, I thought of “Silent Night,” the venerable carol we all know and sing, at least those of us who celebrate Christmas, but I also thought of the literal silent night, the night that descends upon the people who have:
- no family,
- who have nary a friend,
- who have no Christmas goose or plum pudding or
- anything that matters much at all.
I thought of that silent night, what I could do to make it better for all of those people. I’m sure you who read this newsletter often have the same thought, how can we include in our share those who have little.
What Can We Do To Make It Better For All People
Short of grand gestures—like practicing the radical philanthropy prophets like Jesus prescribed—we can do, well, we can do what we can do. I don’t know about you, but I always fall pitifully short of that bar. There is so much more that I could do. I don’t want to beat myself up for not doing it—that won’t help anyone—but I want to prod myself this year maybe into doing a bit more.
For some reason seeing that family I’d lost touch with, seeing them on that card in full festivity, so to speak, gave me a shot of love, big hypodermic to get me off my butt and reaching out. Because that’s the least I can do, and when I do that, more follows, almost always.
My Wish For All Of You
My wish for all of you is that you find festivity in this season, that you reach out, that you all follow whatever spirit moves you to a place closer to love in the silent night that surrounds us all.
Edward (Ned) Hallowell, M.D.