Hello dear friends,
It’s a gray, cold December afternoon here in Columbia. After a brisk walk to their grandparents’ for a fire pit and some back yard Advent projects, the kids and I have holed up at home, with new Christmas pj’s and soup and A Charlie Brown Christmas.
I’m going to be honest: I almost never, ever read the news. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, and not often on Instagram, so the way I find out about current events is typically from my husband or from blogs.
It’s not that I don’t care what’s going on in our country or in the world. But when it comes to current events, sometimes news and social media feel to me like a massive number of voices bombarding me, like the pulsing roar of a football game. It’s hard to strain my ears and discern what anyone’s actually saying in the midst of the deafening noise. It’s hard to know what’s really true and whom to believe, and what exactly, at the end of the day, I’m supposed to do about it.
But for whatever reason, recently I’ve heard two clear calls in my life that stand out from the noise. I’ve decided to lift my head and listen hard.
One is the book David put in my hands a couple of months ago, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond.
Another comes in the form of some of the bloggers I respect, who tell me this week that there is a crisis of epic proportions in Aleppo, Syria. There is terror and bombing and starvation. I won’t attempt to summarize this situation for you because Ann and Shannan are two people who have done it well.
I’ve been known to avoid educating myself about things that feel too painful, but with Evicted and with learning about the war in Syria, I decided not to toss aside the book for lighter reading or to quickly skip ahead to the next blog post. Instead, I wiped away tears and pressed on to the next chapter, clicked the next link and then the next that told me about the deprivation and horrors people are experiencing this December.
And here I’m sitting here in my favorite gold reading chair on a Friday afternoon, and I’m wondering what difference this knowledge makes in my life, other than to make me feel a bit guilty and very sad. While I know warmth and safety and a fully belly this Christmas, many know cold and fear and hunger.
How can I possibly have been born to such privilege? Why am I here right now and not there? What could I possibly do to help provide housing for America’s poor or peace for refugees of war-torn nations?
Honestly, I don’t know the answer yet.
It’s a question I’d like to explore in the coming weeks, but for now, trite as it may sound, it starts with a little paper ornament hung on our Christmas tree. It starts with standing there in the early-morning darkness of our living room, next to the sparkling white lights, looking at that heart-breaking photo and praying for people I don’t know — people across the world in Syria and people right here in my own country.
And there are others too — not just those in physical danger, but those for whom the holidays are a painful time of year. The friends who have lost loved ones. The friends who are sick in body or sick in spirit. The friends who want to be married and aren’t. The friends whose marriage is in tatters. The friends who are looking at a negative pregnancy test, again.
I won’t fool myself into thinking that hanging a print-out ornament changes anything or makes me a better person, I know it’s not even close to enough. But I guess it’s a very small way to say, “I won’t turn a blind eye. I will think of you. I will remember that I have much to be thankful for, and also that it’s not all about me and my family memories. I’ll remember that many people are sad right now.”
Don’t get me wrong, I will be very happy in the days to come. I will continue to delight in many aspects of our month, which I’ve already deemed my favorite December yet. I’ll enjoy wrapping gifts and making a third batch of fudge and listening to Christmas music from dawn ’til dusk. I’m so thankful that, as Shannan reminds us, “Gratitude and sorrow aren’t, as I once believed, mutually exclusive. They actually pair quite well together, one in each hand.”
The very heart of the Christmas story is both sorrow at the brokenness of our hearts and our world, and surging joy, at the victory of Christ.
I guess I’m just saying, in this very roundabout way, that I want to have eyes to see what’s real this Christmas and not what’s on Pinterest. I want to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. More than chasing after happiness, which is in the end very fleeting, I want to chase hard after Jesus, who is the hope for our weary world.