Despair and gloom reached out for me.
As a news junkie, my days were being framed by the constant sounds of crisis. Wall Street bail outs. Homes being foreclosed. Collapse of the middle class. No jobs. Wars.
With each new day in November, my normally happy psyche was being devoured by the feeling of doom laying in a crouching position, just around the corner, waiting for me.. Life was taking on a dark side.
Thanksgiving was rapidly approaching. Like a runaway freight train, time was rushing past me in a daze. The November elections had such out most of my free time as well as my professional time.
Exhausted from the intensity of covering all the elections in six counties, I looked forward to crawling into bed for at least a week and pretend the world was on hold.
And then the call came from Afghanistan
Our son, a captain in Kentucky National Guard Combat Engineers, was on his way home for his midterm leave. It took him three days to leave the war zone. Fly through Kuwait. Hold over in Ireland. Then to Atlanta and on to Lexington.
Over the next week, we spent several days in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky with son, daughter in law, granddaughter, and grandson. Somehow, sunshine had broken through the storms clouds for a few hours. We were wallowing in being a family. Pretending that life was once again, normal. No war, no economic crisis.
This time passed all too quickly for Mary and me. We had to get back to Clinton and re-enter the life of a lawyer and newspaper publisher.
Three days after son made the reverse trip back to work, Mary received an e-mail from a him. The e-mail spoke of how in the last hours he was home, his one year old son, Owen Barger, had taken his first steps. Another milestone in our family. Even in the face of war, the magic of joy can take your breath away for a moment.
As Mary read over our son’s words, crying for joy, I felt that this year’s holidays would be special.
On Thanksgiving night, I once again had one of those moments when vision is clear and reality is given to mortal man to understand the deeper meaning of life.
For the first time in 40 years, my entire family had gathered in Clinton to celebrate Thanksgiving. brother Bill, the dean of a college in Louisiana; Mom, who just a few years ago had ridden out Hurricanes Rita Katrina in Gulfport, Mississippi; daughter Stephanie who brought home her young man to meet the family; plus all the local cousins.
Dinner started at 5:00 pm. We ate, talked, laughed a lot, sometimes to the point of tears for four hours. As a group we wallowed in being a family rich in stories and legends from a past long gone except in the hearts of our senior family members. I realized that this was also a rare moment of magic where the good of people well up and overflow into a brief timeframe where three generations can find common ground to be as one spirit.
Hugs, crying for joy, promises to stay in touch more often, we departed into the cold night around 9:30 pm.
The next morning, I slept through the first wave of Black Friday, not getting up till 8:00 am. Watching the news and having my first cup of Folgers, I was shocked to see where 3 people had died during the early morning rush of humans into Wal-Mart and Toy r Us stores.
Was this what our holidays was being reduced too?
In the same news talking head shows, one expert had stated that the American consumer had been “programmed” to shop till they dropped.
Um…I pondered that for a minute, trying not to get mad at more idiots on TV.
With hot coffee in my hands and the sunlight streaming through the bedroom window, I watched our two kittens roll each other over the bed, I realized that the special time with family this year was, for me, a major turning point in my life.
What if, after 30 years of being programmed to shop till we dropped, Americans tear up their credit cards and live within their means? What if we work hard to “go green”? What if we learn to deal with the world using common sense rather than having fear as our guiding light?
No one in my family went shopping on Black Friday. We all are making gifts or buying locally made foods and crafts for gifts this year.
Somewhere past a grandson taking his first step into the arms of his soldier father and a forty year in the making family dinner, I found my Thanksgiving spirit of saying “Thank you, God, for my joys and wealth.”
Christmas will be a time of sharing simple gifts crafted in love rather than in some China factory. It will be a time of celebrating the spirit of Jesus.
I look forward with hope to a new year where we as Americans have a rare moment in history to re invent our commitment to what is best in our culture, the constant searching for the frontiers of the human condition, we call mankind.
I feel a stirring or our collective souls. We will push forward and rebuild America. And that process starts in every home, along every Main Street, and in each of our hearts. WE are rediscovering the true spirit of Christmas,