Where I grew up our fathers would worked from dawn until unconscious, if lucky enough to have a job. Fathers had no desire, or the time to interfere with our baseball games. Little League was probably happening somewhere but not for us. In retrospect I say, thank God! But in this backdrop we were not people without dreams and aspirations. As we grew up “a good job” was a baggage handler at the newly opened Idlewild Airport (now JFK International Airport). My friend Gerry took that job and retired a few years ago as chief of ground operations for one of the major airlines. Another boy took a job as a deckhand on a dredge at 75 cents/hour. He wound up as a tugboat captain. He was the lead captain of the construction boats and barges when they built the Verazzano Bridge. He retired 15 years ago, again, not a poor man. These people that I remember were not oriented to college degrees, but college degrees were not out of the realm of the possible, and some did go to college. Whether or not they went to college many of them fulfilled a dream that was possible for them.
Spirit may be the term I am trying to explain. Dispirited is the condition that inhibits our ability to achieve. It doesn’t matter what we endeavor to achieve without the spirit we are lost. Isn’t it strange that the spirit arises out of the slums of the world as well as the richest places on earth? Conversely dispirited people emanate from all places as well. What is the secret? Why are some people stymied by life and others are propelled by challenge? We may not know the answer, but I’ll take some guesses.
Values that are taken seriously by our parents and society in general shape our thinking and provide a framework. On the other hand it has been said that happiness is a conscious choice. How do people who have been oppressed come through the ordeals of their lives with a magnanimous outlook? How does a Nelson Mandela spend 27 years in a prison, and upon his release asks for mercy for his tormentors? I don’t know the answer to that question but I sure would have liked to meet his parents. Perhaps it was his keen intellect that helped him understand human nature in a way that most of us never will. Or it could have been attributed to a spiritual connection to others. The kind of connection that is promoted by all the great religions of the world
As we enter this season of Christmas we should examine the essence of this celebration. This season should be a call to our better nature. If we embrace our fellow passengers on the planet we inhabit, we will be fulfilling the premise of Christianity. You don’t have to be a Christian to understand this, but true Christians extend good wishes to all. So if you hear the phrase “Merry Christmas” directed to you, and you are not a Christian, then accept it as; I wish you peace.
Good Yontiff and Merry Christmas to all.