Sharing the sense of hope

Maybe today your newspaper stayed rubber-banded a bit longer than usual, and the TV news was kept off, and your laptop, mostly closed.

Hopefully you woke up to a house full of friends and family, some you hadn’t seen in a year or longer, and you all drank your coffee together, and talked, and lit the fire just because it looked good, and stayed in your robes until mid-morning.

Perhaps you felt a pang of anticipation knowing you were about to surprise a loved one with the perfect gift, a gift that cost a little more than you’d usually spend, but, well, you know, it’s Christmas.

Maybe you also got surprised.

If you were lucky, the choir sang all your favorite carols and the sermon was spot-on. The kids didn’t squirm too much, and if they did, you kept things in perspective, shrugged, and thought that if ever there is a day for kids to squirm, it is today.

Speaking of perspective, with any luck, you realized the differences you have with your family over politics, or the best way to make mashed potatoes, or whatever usual nonsense you argue about, were small compared to what have in common, and not worth the fight.

It’s a safe bet that the turkey, or the ham, or whatever, took hours to cook, and filled your home with smells so overwhelmingly warm that every time you heard a kitchen timer ding, you felt precisely Pavlovian.

And when it was time to clean up after dinner, everyone pitched in, because honestly, those dishes weren’t going to wash themselves, and it just went faster that way.

Hopefully you let the big pans soak. It just makes good sense.

If everything went well — or even if it didn’t — let’s hope you felt cheerful today.

And if not?

If you turned on the news and heard about some ugliness?

If you had to work a soul-crushing shift at a job that too often keeps you away from your friends and family?

Or if you woke up to an empty house, and that emptiness felt, in some deep but hard to explain way, sharper because of the holiday itself?

Then hopefully you knew you could still hold on to hope itself — a white candle with a bright flame — and understood that things can change, and often do change, and really, more likely than not, will change for the better.

Because if there is one thing that Christmas is about, inarguably, it is that we all can share in that sense of hope, together and apart, at least for one day every year.