Let's tell the truth up front.
A lot of us--be we individuals or families--don't have holiday seasons that resemble the loving scenes of a Norman Rockwell painting. If I may be so bold, there are a lot of us who would rather be anywhere else rather than to take a drive, or a flight to a holiday family get-together.
I've got a question for you: Why go if it hurts?
Because, we are, by composition--Optimists. We'd like to think, in a season's time, the problems that took place during the LAST holiday gathering have been resolved.
We pack our bags, put the family in the car or on the plane, and drive off in hopes of it being 'better' this year. However, it doesn't take long for our hopes to degenerate into painful memories. Too many painful memories of who is not speaking to who; who got too drunk at the last bash; or which relative will brag the most about a trip, a promotion, or a raise.
I don't need that kind of drama in my life. Neither do you.
NOT MAKING LIGHT OF A TRUTH:
I write this month's column to serve as your official permission slip to opt out of the holidays with anyone who would drive you over the edge. I would urge you to be classy, stay home, and far away from the family crazies, weird uncles and strange cousins that seem to dot the ancestral landscape every time the calendar page circulates to the time zone between November and January.
The zone I affectionately call: 'The Holiday Hell Zone'.
But, in its place, I offer an alternative. Put your goodwill into action and be non-traditional. Find someone who needs help--and help them, this season.
Now, before some of you rush to your keyboards and desk sets to drop me a note about me 'making light' of the subject of Hell; let me take a few lines to define my terms.
From a biblical perspective, there is a Hell, just as there is a Heaven. It may not be 'PC' to mention Hell. I've never been one to be 'PC'.
However, I have run in to people--some of them who have many letters after their names--who have been anxious to downplay the existence of Hell.
Some of these same people also try to downplay the existence of the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and Satan. Many of them exist within our own families.
NOT ANTI-FAMILY BUT PRO-COMMON-SENSE:
However, Hell can exist in the present and on earth whenever uncaring, insensitive, and otherwise prideful people care more about their toys, their needs, and their joys than caring for those less fortunate. The ultimate act of selfishness is to use one's material prosperity to make another person feel 'less than human' when they are going through hard times.
There are other ways that Hell can exist on earth:
*Pushing one's 'agenda' ahead of the good of the family. That's how divorces get started, and flow to their destructive conclusion. Sometimes, it's best to 'opt out' of a family gathering to make peace with one's OWN household.
*Forgetting the people and remembering the numbers. As if we haven't seen enough layoffs in the present, corporate bean counters and 'suits' of all types like to use the festivity of the holidays to drop a little 'pink' cheer known as a layoff notice. After all, those books 'have' to balance, right? When was the last time you heard of the CEOs taking pay cuts for the good of the company?
*Putting 'Me' ahead of 'Thee'. Hollywood is filled with these type of individuals. However, many of our own family members could get awards for the cut throat things they do to be the center of attention at the holiday get together.
OTHER HARD TIMERS OUT THERE:
Want to REALLY survive the 'Holiday Hell Zone?' Be thankful for what you do have, and do with that little, something that will mean a lot to someone else. Be non-traditional this season. Check out those in your community who have it worse off than you do.
Believe me; they are not that hard to find.
For example, the holidays are hard on parents who have lost their children through divorce. While the lawyers and the courts are busy this time of year in their handling of 'emergency orders' for visitation, someone loses the chance to be with their children due to judicial edict.
Either the custodial or noncustodial parent loses out, and feels 'less than human' because we ALL have been sold the traditional bill of goods saying that families are 'supposed' to be united during the holidays.
There is a brother who is a custodial father who is having a rough go of it, because his spouse of so many years has walked out the door to 'find' herself with a 'better' man, and left him holding the mortgage and the kids. He needs your prayers and support.
There is a sister who is a noncustodial mother who got her bank account and bedroom cleaned out by a less-than-faithful spouse, who not only had a mistress and got the cash, but got the kids, too! She needs your prayers and support.
Then, there are the young people in our various communities. I could spend an entire column examining their needs, but I'll just make one observation.
Remember YOUR youth? Remember not knowing how to tie a tie, shine a pair of shoes, or shop for a suit? There are young men, right now, in that boat...and some of them are right in your neighborhood, or, down the way on lockdown in a juvenile correction facility. We talk so much about 'being a brother'. Well, how about being a friend to a young person who needs it--WITHOUT prompting by a TV news crew?
No, I'm not pointing a finger at the church. I am pointing a finger right at YOU.
NOT CHARITY BUT INVOLVEMENT:
We've been reading a lot, lately, about the various charitable organizations, and what they've been doing with the money they have been given. Why should WE be shocked by the accusations, accounts, and public testimonies of those 'caught' putting charitable funds into their pockets? Quick money, sticky fingers, and lack of accountability will turn ANY unethical person into Blackbeard or Lizzie Borden.
If you doubt me, the same type of thievery happens within many Child Support agencies on a regular basis. But, I digress.
If you want to survive, and thrive, this--or any--holiday season, remember that charity starts with an individual giving to another individual. Always has, and always will. Payroll deductions alone do NOT prove ONE'S liberality!
Remember the Bible story about the Rich Man and Lazarus? Lazarus lay at the Rich Man's gate day after day, month after month, until there was a heavenly call for accountability. We all know who went where, and who got what. It wasn't pretty for the Rich Man, when there was a heavenly audit of his charitability.
It's not the lack of giving that ultimately got the Rich Man into trouble. It was his general attitude; his abundant lack of sight and involvement! He focused so much on himself that he was blinded to needs that were right in front of him.
One can get through the Holiday Hell Zone best by taking off their selective blinders, and seeing those in front of, around, and right by them. For, in the end analysis, some of those on our streets, in the hood, in suites or prison cells had a visit from trouble, and had no one to stand by them, nor catch their back. Now, YOU have the opportunity to catch their back.
The time MAY come when you'll need someone to catch yours, down the road.