That time is finally here. For months, I've patiently waited for this special moment. As I head to the mall for a little afternoon shopping, I can finally pop in my Mariah Carey "Merry Christmas" CD! Yes! The Christmas season is officially here and no one, not even my poor chagrined husband, can stop me from indulging in my holiday guilty pleasure. I'll sing "All I Want for Christmas" at the very top of my lungs ... in the privacy of my own car or when my hubby isn't home. Come on; I have some pride.
Yes, the holiday season has arrived, and County Line Road is already vying for its annual title as the worse traffic jam in town. Every salesperson is donning a Santa hat to lure our credit cards from our wallets, and the big guy himself is taking a hiatus from the North Pole to delight and perhaps frighten small children in malls across the country. But despite Mariah's sparkling rendition of "O Holy Night," I'm finding it difficult to get into the holiday spirit. I guess I'm wondering just what Santa's plans are for answering his big bag of letters this year.
Not that I haven't been a good girl. I've kept up with the laundry a little better, tried to stay in touch with friends a bit more, gone to church regularly, and tried to shape up both my mind and body. No, I'm not making any special requests this year or sending my list to the North Pole. When I reflect on the past year, I couldn't have asked for more, and my proverbial cup has certainly been filled with good health, good cheer and blessings galore. What does come to mind, though, are the wish lists of some people across the globe.
I see the heartsick spouses and children of American and Iraqi soldiers penning desperate pleas to see Mommies and Daddies safely home. I envision more than one presidential hopeful hunched over his desk writing a letter imploring Santa for a win in 2004. Kobe and Michael might write a joint letter requesting justice from the courts and a dose of better judgment for the future (regardless of their guilt or innocence). I can even see Ben and Jen (a/k/a Bennifer) beseeching Santa via their publicists for a little less exposure in the new year.
That's just a small cross-section of what could be filling Santa's bag. Even St. Nick might be a little down on the holidays reviewing those lists. The elves won't be able to simply hit the old workshop and whip up something to satisfy these big boys and girls. While Santa racks his brain and bullies a few elves, we have the opportunity to consider this rather odd snapshot of 2003. Look at how much our world has changed since this time last year and how much it has stayed the same. And as we focus on our holiday shopping, I hope that a new spirit of humanitarianism will become a part of our consciousness and color our traditionally shallow perspectives on giving thanks and receiving gifts.
A renewed appreciation for our humanity would be the best gift that Santa could deliver to this weary world. Our complexity, our vulnerability and our ability to be compassionate draw us together, but ultimately those qualities also separate us. Instead of being thankful for our differences and idiosyncrasies, we often resent what we have not personally received in character, deed or wealth. We miss the bigger picture. It's not about any one of us; it's about how we share and interact with each other. It's about our united prayers for soldiers overseas, a common horror and admonition at celebrities gone wild, offerings of thanks to God every day and words of gratitude to each other for the smallest deeds.
Who better than Santa to deliver this message to humanity? In my version of the story, this is a man who chose to be exiled to the coldest region of the earth where he lives with vertically challenged workers producing toys and gifts year round for a rather selfish and thankless world. Then he must deliver all of these gifts in a span of 24 hours where he is forced to eat a variety of poorly baked goods and room-temperature milk at each stop. This man knows a bit about appreciating humanity in spite of it all.
Maybe I will write a letter to Santa after all. While Mariah sings in the background, I'll pen this one plea for humanity. Remember, Santa, when your toughest request was snow on Christmas Day in Mississippi?
Jennifer Spann is a frequent columnist for the JFP.