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FRESH IDEAS: Remember those who go without this season of giving

Grant Clowers
For the Nevada Appeal

The other day I played Candyland with my little girl. When we finished I was putting the game box back in her closet and struggling to find a place for it. We have so many toys that I had to squeeze it in to make it fit.

As I looked at all that stuff, I said to myself, “Good grief,” (yes I had just watched the Peanuts Thanksgiving special) “where are we going to put all the new stuff she’s going to get?” Tales of Black Friday and my own awareness of all the stuff I have caused me to pause and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas: orgiastic commerce and consumption.

The frenzy of materialism that this season has become is often widely lamented and justly so, given that it was originally a celebration of the birth of someone so poor that he was born in a barn and whose first bed was the trough that the animals ate from.

The story of that birth means different things to different people, but at least one of the things it reminds us of is that at this time of the year it is very easy to lose touch with certain realities of life.

As we sit in the glow of our Christmas trees, many, many men, women and children go to bed each night with empty stomachs and serious questions about the plausibility of continued existence. As most of us gather together with family and friends, many others live lives of loneliness and quiet desperation. Our feasting and celebrations stand in marked contrast to the suffering that characterizes life for so many in our world.

This is not meant to throw cold water on whatever joy we can make for ourselves at this time of the year. To be honest with you, I love Christmas and the happiness of the season. I am happy to have any reason to celebrate. But because I like to live with at least a modicum of honesty, I have to also remind myself that I am able to celebrate because I am very, very lucky in life.

As we buy our presents and give to those who may already have a lot, perhaps we can find a way to give to others who do not have so much. Many spiritual traditions say that giving hospitality to a stranger is one of the highest forms of love. A willingness to give to others, including those who are outside the glow of our celebration, may be a kind of quiet joy that gets to a deeper meaning of the season.

After all, what is life for if not to love and care for one another? Happy Christmas to all.

• Grant Clowers is a psychotherapist practicing in Carson City.