I hope Thanksgiving went well for you, and turned out as you wished.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving, I went to a famous church in San Francisco, Glide Memorial, which is a free form protestant/Christian experience, a church where the founder and pastor is an extraordinary man, Reverend Cecil Williams, and their extensive charitable foundations are run by his exceptionally wonderful wife, Janice Mirikatani. The music there is fabulous, and is Gospel with a large musical ensemble, the message is flawless and calls us to put our actions where our Faith is. It really spoke to me when he said that we wait for God to act on our behalf, but maybe God is waiting for us to act, to demonstrate our faith. I liked that a lot, and he urged us not to Talk Love, but to Live it. I took friends from Europe there, and I always come out of that church feeling terrific and full of energy and renewed faith. Glide is exceptional because they have countless programs for the poor and homeless, education, health and housing programs, detox, and an amazing free meal program, where they serve close to 900,000 free meals a year, lunch and dinner. Cecil and his wife Janice are truly an inspiration!! It got my Thanksgiving week off to a great start, and as he said, the emphasis should be on Giving.
On a less upbeat note, a few weeks ago I had an unpleasant experience. An employee driving my car got in an accident, a collision, with me in the car. No one was seriously injured, although I got a mild concussion from the impact, and felt lousy for about a week, but no great damage was done to me, but the damage was bad and very costly to my car, and I wasn’t thrilled about it, to say the least. The accident was entirely the fault of the person driving my car. Ugh. The deductible was high, and I was out of pocket quite a lot, and not happy about it. A week of conversations ensued for a week with the person who was driving my car, and astonishingly the words “I’m sorry” never came into play. I’m a sucker for a heartfelt “I’m sorry”, which didn’t happen. Instead we argued back and forth about who would pay the deductible, and how much of it. And in the conversations, the driver at fault blew me off and said it was “tragic comic” that I would expect any reimbursement, and that made me madder than the lack of an apology and an aggressive attitude that followed the old theory that the best defense is a good offense. Very few people have unlimited money, and for most of us, every time we get all our bills paid and in order, some unexpected expense comes along, a damaged roof on your home from a storm, you break a tooth and have to spend a fortune at the dentist, or your car falls apart and the garage charges you a fortune too. It happens to us all, no matter what our circumstances or income. But the assumption that the expensive car repair was peanuts to me was not only inaccurate but really offensive (and of course it happened right in the month were I had a pile of expenses and bills to pay, and didn’t need another great big fat expense), and it made me realize how little we know of other people’s lives, finances, health, or the state of their marriages. The couples who bicker constantly in public and fight for 20 years don’t seem to get divorced. But the couple who is our golden role model for happiness stuns us by announcing they’re getting divorced. The people we think are rolling in money, usually aren’t, and may even be in trouble. And more than once I have been fooled, sadly, by friends I thought were fine and enjoying life, and have committed suicide and left everyone speechless and bereft (Two of those just this summer). You just don’t know what is in someone’s head or heart, or bank account, or what happens in their relationship behind closed doors. And some people are very private about their griefs or even despair. We only know what they want to show us and can only guess at the rest. I was really reminded that you can’t make assumptions, about anything, and least of all about people.
And in that vein, it reminded me to be aware of others during the holidays. The best memories of my childhood are of Christmas. I didn’t have a happy childhood, and grew up alone with an austere father without a mother present, but Christmas at our house was fabulous, warm, cozy, fun, with lots of friends around and our home decorated for Christmas. And I have had absolutely wonderful Christmases with my 9 kids, and tried to make Christmas memorable for them, with lots of family time, friends with us, baking, music, Christmas trees and all the trappings of Christmas, and a loving home. But life is real and no one can escape the challenges, we lose people we love, marriages and relationships end, people get sick, finances can be tough, our families or friends let us down in some way, we lose a job. And for some people the holidays can be really, really tough, even an agonizing or brutally lonely depressing time. And we have just entered The Zone on that, with 3 BIG allegedly family holidays back to back: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. If you’re having a tough time in life, those 3 holidays all jammed into 5 weeks can lay you flat. There are ways to deal with it, either avoid it entirely, make the best of it, or volunteer at a homeless shelter and give to others, and other possibilities. But without offering pat solutions, I am acknowledging how hard the holidays can be, and reminding myself and all of us to be aware of others. We may not have any idea how much someone else is suffering, how bleak their life is, how desperate they are and what a challenge those holidays may be for them. Sometimes even with those closest to us, even in our own family, how little we know of the suffering of others, unless they tell us (and many people in dark despair don’t say so). And I am reminded now of how compassionate and sensitive we need to be toward others at this potentially difficult time of year. Not everyone has a stack of presents under the tree, a loving partner, and it’s not all Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls for everyone. For some people, this is the hardest time of year, and all they hope to do is survive it. I’ve had my share of hard knocks and tragedies too. We all have. And I’m going to try and be more aware of others during these holidays. This just isn’t an easy time of year. And the more fanfare there is around us, the worse it is for someone having a hard time. I hope your holidays are joyful, and mine too, but it doesn’t always work out that way. That’s just the reality of life. I feel humbled remembering that I may not have any idea what my neighbor, or best friend, is going through.
Which reminds me of something my father said in jest once, based on a German proverb, which is all too true: We get so soon old and so late smart. Ain’t it the truth…..I hope your holidays will be fantastic!!!! And that you’re already off to a good start.