After two years of cancelled or curtailed holiday plans because of Covid, untold thousands of holiday celebrants this year have had their flights and road trips cancelled because of inclement weather. Covid also plays a part in this year’s holiday season, although the careless among us think differently. No matter what, it just seems increasingly difficult to wish our friends and families a happy or merry anything.
This is the year many of us were looking to celebrate. By mid-morning, the floors should be littered with torn wrapping paper. Whoever is in charge of the day’s feast should be madly figuring out oven times so the turkey and dressing can share that once-a-year time to emerge well heated. The stove top is yet another challenge: seven sides on four burners. Somebody is in charge of seating twelve people on ten chairs.
Mostly, things work out just fine, even if you did forget the yams.
All things considered, we are lucky to have such problems.
While three years of missed celebrations might seem something of a hardship, or at least a bother, we should take a few minutes to think of those whose holiday festivities must be put off because of their commitment to providing services that know no holiday. Yet others have no holiday plans because they are beyond their scope.
Hunger, pain, poverty and loneliness won’t take the day off because it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other of the twelve or so days that are celebrated during this part of the Gregorian calendar. Those are the people who deserve our aid and attention to fully express what every religion demands: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Our nation’s workforce is unfairly asked to sacrifice for others. Most don’t seem to mind. First responders are those most needed as accidents, acute illnesses and natural disasters occur with no warning and no respect for time or place. EMTs, firefighters and police are on the job 24/7 to assure that the public’s health and safety are well protected.
The staffs of our community hospitals are strained, but ever present. Doctors, nurses, aides, housekeepers, administrators and kitchen staff all contribute to assure the well-being of those relegated to hospital rooms. Many of those are left alone—their families in distant places, unable, perhaps, to afford transportation to visit an ailing relative.
Geri retired from Livingston Health Care last year after twenty-five years of service. She started out in Admissions and one Christmas she was required to work. Her lunch break came late in the afternoon and the kids and I, along with my mother, joined her in the basement cafeteria for a dinner of mac ‘n cheese, ham sandwiches on spongy white bread, and canned soup. Of the forty-four Christmases we’ve spent together, that was the most memorable.
Poverty, to me, is the most heart-breaking of reasons for the holidays to be less than joyful. Illness is unpredictable and we face its wrath with no notice. Poverty is shameful. We live in the wealthiest country in the world and yet countless babies, adolescents and elderly go to bed hungry, their prospects for tomorrow no better than yesterday.
My illnesses prevented me from continuing with our volunteering on Christmas to help feed the hungry. It was a satisfying experience as we helped prepare and serve the food at the county fairgrounds to people who were perhaps less hungry than they were lonely. A two-minute conversation with an elderly woman over a hotel pan of mashed potatoes made my day. It might have made hers. I hope so.
The most obvious of our needs for others to lend emergency services should be noted that truck drivers, train and other transportation workers are important to the lifeline we follow. So are grocers and restaurant workers, the latter of which give up holidays to provide service to diners who chose not to celebrate at home—for whatever reasons.
When I had my restaurant, I refused to open on Christmas, Easter or Valentine’s Day. People needed to be home on those days, I thought. At least my staff didn’t need to work on days that should have been spent with family.
My son, Daniel, is a merchant marine who is captain to the voyage that will dock in a day or two in Seattle. His work takes precedence over a holiday that can be spent with his wife a day or so later. I can hear Courtney in the next room, madly wrapping the gifts for her stepchildren—our grand kids. For years Geri and I would be up until two in the morning wrapping and assembling gifts and toys.
The heroes of our holidays are those who give to those who we know don’t but are in need. Volunteer at the food bank, cook for the hungry, drive neighbors to the Elks lodge or American Legion who are trying to make today—and every day—a special time of love and belonging.
For all of my friends and family who celebrate, I wish you each a Merry Christmas. And please remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska
1 pkg. gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water
3 oz. dark chocolate
1 cup whole milk
½ cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1 Tbs. triple sec
2 cups heavy cream
Melt chocolate in a double boiler and add milk, beating until smooth. Remove from heat, add gelatin. Add sugar & salt, stir until blended. Cool slightly and add triple sec. Cool until beginning to set. Whip the cream until fairly stiff. Blend with chocolate mix. Pour into ramekins and chill.