Christmas and the end of 2016 are upon us, and at this point, it seems appropriate to engage in a bit of retrospection on the year’s key events, both personal and global.
A lot happened in the last 12 months, some of which is commendable, some (the majority, it seems) not so much.
In the plus column, there was the visit of Pope Francis to Mexico in February, the opening of the expanded Panama and Suez Canals in June and August, respectively, the Summer Olympics in Rio in August (hey, even if your team lost, at least the doomsday predictions of a Zika pandemic didn’t come true) and the Dow Jones’ breaking the 19,000-point threshold in November.
On the negative side, there was the fifth anniversary of the nonstop shell-athon in Syria, the Brexit vote in June (which could be a plus, depending on your particular views regarding the European Union), the attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, far too many acts of terrorism to enumerate and, lest we forget, the horrid knock-down-drag-out slugfest that passed for the U.S. presidential election campaign.
Yes, 2016, with its exploding Samsung Note 7s and unfulfilled promises of an end to the 52-year cycle of political murders, kidnappings and drug trafficking in Colombia, will be long be remembered as a year that time might best have forgotten.
But now it is coming to a close, and, regardless of personal religious affiliations, the message of Christ’s birth is one of peace, love, mercy, hope and new beginnings which can inspire us all (including, maybe, some U.S. politicians who will remain nameless).
So whether it is a Christmas candle or a Hanukkah menorah, this is a good time to bring a little more light into the world and pay forward those blessings we all share, especially family and loved ones, for they are the greatest gifts of all.
Although this season can be a particularly difficult period — emotionally and financially — for many, it is also a time of sharing and coming together.
It is the Christian values of tolerance and compassion that can end wars and unite diverse groups in a common cause of betterment.
Christmas is a time of miracles, a time when dreams can come true and, even if they don’t, warm hearts and goodwill.
Personally, I will never forget a Christmas many years ago when I was about six years old.
Because of my father’s career, my family was living in a very underdeveloped country (I won’t say which) and the only source of First World luxuries we had was a tattered Sears catalogue, from which we would have to order items at least six months in advance and then hope for the best as far as them arriving.
My elder brother Terry predicted — correctly — that Christmas presents would be in short supply for us kids that year, so he gave me a gift that I would cherish for the rest of my life.
Terry came into my room at about 3 a.m. on Christmas morning and told me that he had personally witnessed Santa Claus under our old metallic excuse for a tree.
He said that Santa had asked him to give me a tiny leather bracelet as a reminder that even if he couldn’t get his reindeer to haul very much to the far-flung corner of the globe where we were living, I should never forget what Christmas was all about.
I guess a part of me realized that Terry, who was eight at the time, had made the rustic bracelet himself, but it was the message of hope and my brother’s goodhearted attempt to keep me from losing either my belief in Santa Claus or faith in Christmas that stayed with me.
Christmas is about hope, and as we all look forward to a new year, we can hope for the best, believe in the innate goodness of humanity and do our small part to help bring joy and peace to those around us.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected]