Depression at the holidays

I suspect that all of us know that life for most people is not working itself out as if resembling and reflecting a scene from a Currier and Ives winter print.  The holidays we now find ourselves in are supposed to be a time filled with happiness and family harmony and bliss.  But for most people the real story of how we live each day and the challenges we face does not reflect that picture at all.   So many people seem right now to be carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.  So many are facing great hardships and “heart” ships; and they are angry.   Just drive on the roads this time of year if you do not believe me.   We see more accidents, more road rage, more traffic jams and frayed tempers.  So many people seem to be living lonely and quiet and desperate lives.   To make matters worse, so many people in the USA right now are either out of work or afraid they soon will be.  Some have given up entirely on hitting the pavement to present themselves with their good credentials only to be rejected.  It hurts too much.

My previous 30 years of work history were spent as an Episcopal priest.  As someone wise once said to me:  “Jim, you will never become rich but you sure will see life”.  Yes, I have been privileged to see life in all it’s beauty and all it’s nakedness.  Television and the advertisers at Madison Avenue over the years have sold us into thinking that life and “having comforts” should be easy and our birthright as Americans.  Our life picture should reflect one big “Currier and Ives” pristine fantasy.  Reality has not turned out like that for most.  Forget Haiti and Ghana which I usually write about, I am talking about America!

The question for me is:  What are each one of us going to do in the coming year about whatever life has brought our way?  And yes, we do have it better than any other people in any other country of the world.  So is it possible to find inner happiness regardless of whatever external factors in life complicate our lives?  Of course we all know the answer, yes of course it is possible to experience joy within.  It really has little to do with what we have or what we do and even how much money we make.  It has to do with living life thankfully and by helping others.  Sometimes I know I sound like a broken record because I speak of this key to happiness (helping others and becoming lost in them) often.  But you know it doesn’t cost us a dime to say “thank you”.  It doesn’t take too much of our time to “open a door” for someone.  It doesn’t set us back to smile at people and say hi, yes even strangers!  The most sacred and important thing each of us has to give to others is time.  This next year if you want to take away some of the sting of the holiday blues, instead of fighting to “get it all done” at the holidays, spend time with those you love and those you do not even know to make their day a little bit lovelier.  It will make them feel much better and give us each the inner happiness we all crave.

Fr. B

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