Let’s never delude ourselves. Seasons of goodwill do not often change people permanently. Like adding sugar to something that is inherently bitter, the feelings of goodness that pervade during Christmas rarely last long. It is not unheard of for the Christmas morning cheer to erupt into a blazing inferno of hateful comments and actions before the presents were all unwrapped. That makes for a less than wonderful day, when dinner, already planned, and largely already cooked, becomes a battlefield for seething emotions. To the extent that people do not have to live under the same roof for more than that day the feelings may fade, but there may also be lots of thoughts of ‘never again’ or ‘why do we go through this?’
Midnight mass last night had a sermon which essentially touched on this state of discontent and disharmony, focusing on Christians who dress themselves in clothes of goodwill though their bodies and spirits are filled with illwill. The theme was a variation on Gandhi’s notion that you must be the change you wish to see in the world. Those who harbour hate, dislike, and distrust, even to the point where they cannot even remember why they have such feelings, are not likely to just put those aside because the calendar turns another day. While positive and negative feelings often cancel, they also often end with the negative seeming to win.
Yet, while seasons come and go, there is a permanence to the life we live that is less about change. The priest’s sentiments are right: forcing us to look for peace within ourselves and seeking to make peace with others is one of life’s persistent struggles. Many people give up before getting even a little way along the road. I have a theory, ‘the give’: give a person the chance to do you a good turn and they will often take it. I’ve seen it work for me many times, even this week. Yet, I know that there are people who profess to wish to do others good but whenever offered the opportunity slap them in the face, at least figuratively.
I am often reminded at Christmastime about how we wish for so much yet do little to make things happen. If you do not know the old English rhyme below then now is a good time to learn it:
- If wishes were horses
- Beggars would ride:
- If turnips were watches
- I would wear one by my side.
- And if ifs and ands were pots and pans,
- The tinker would never work!