Erin's Journals

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Just a thought… Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see. [The Conductor, The Polar Express, written by Chris Van Allsburg]

And here it is, Christmas Eve. For many, what should be the most wonderful night of the year is truly a silent night: no big family gatherings, memories cherished rather than made, dinners for two or even one, rather than a table laid out like a Downton Abbey banquet.

We used to call these feasts a spread. But, of course, this year, it’s upon stopping or preventing a spread that we have our highest sights set. And so, many sacrifice togetherness at Christmas in hopes that 2021 brings with it the prospect of gathering safely again one day soon.

When I look back at what the year to which we are soon to say good-bye (and for many, a hearty “good riddance”) has brought and wrought, there is one gift that we all opened through the year: connection.

Connection?” you ask, as you ponder where best to sit or the right time to do that Zoom call tonight or tomorrow. But stay with me. How many people had even heard of Zoom (as a noun or more recently a verb) before isolation was forced upon – or begged of – us? Very few. Of course, other apps have been in existence or popped up in the past months, and I’m talking about all of them in general.

We became, as a data analyst I spoke with a few weeks ago for a podcast put it, “technical immigrants.” Many of us learned how to connect via video with our families or our co-workers; some of us even hosted events or conducted interviews through the myriad tech wonders that came out this year! The learning curve was steep, but thankfully we had the time and the quiet, most of us, to sit and figure it out. And we stayed connected.

Where I thought I’d be perched on a couch for a face-to-face chat or standing at a podium, I was instead set up in a quiet corner of the house with lights, makeup, lashes – the whole thing – and doing what I love: answering and asking questions. Staying in touch in all new ways. Because we had to.

We found ourselves closer to others in isolation this year, too. While in-person visits were strongly discouraged, as they are now, we found ourselves dropping off gift bags or thermal bags of warm food for our friends and family. There was something about being restricted in our access to those for whom we care that made us think of them and wonder if there was anything they needed. The kindness that emerged when we stopped rushing, just for a bit, was a wonder to behold. It was the gift that grew as the year went on: we asked ourselves if everyone else was okay and what we could do to make sure their lives were a little easier.

A great many people have suffered this past year, and not the least of those pains felt was loneliness. Christmas just seems to shine the brightest light, not only on the joy of the season, but on the darkness that surrounds you when you’re not wrapped in the gentle company of the ones you love.

Grief – and yes, many are grieving – breaks your heart wide open and while you will never find every shard and successfully put it back in its place, what you will learn is that the holes that are left, no matter what size, leave you open to giving and receiving more love. To sharing more compassion. To feeling not only your own pain and suffering – as so many do at this moment – but to empathize and consider what others may be going through. And that empathy takes you out of your own, however briefly. I promise you that.

And so tonight at 6 o’clock Christmas Eve (in your own time zone, wherever that may be) remember the ringing of the bells mentioned here last week. Stand on your porch, your balcony, wherever you can and make a joyful sound – and yes, there are plenty of apps for that – a spirited jingle that will not only help Santa find his way for the kids, but remind the rest of us that there will always be reasons to ring bells.

In times of joy, in times of sorrow, the bells ring. Tonight this sound will also connect us in ways of gratitude towards the women and men who are working through the holidays and who have sacrificed much – including their own health in some cases – to ensure we have ours.

Once again, by staying safely apart, we will be coming together in gratitude, in the warm candy cane sweetness of fond memories and in hope of brighter days ahead. If that isn’t the spirit of Christmas, then I can’t imagine what is.

Blessings to you, my friend. Thank you for coming here this year – and I’ll be back with you on Monday, January 4th with a new journal. In the meantime, I’ll have daily posts at my facebook page if you’d like to stay in touch.

Merry Christmas. And may 2021 be a healthy and healing year for us all.

(photo taken pre-COVID)

Rob WhiteheadThursday, December 24, 2020