By Greg Ritchie
Editor’s note: Greg’s Corner is an editorial (opinion) section where Messenger Reporter Greg Ritchie shares odds and ends from the job and unusual or interesting facts from across the world and across time.
MESSENGER OFFICE – I write this surrounded by the red and green, nativity scenes, garland, blinking lights and all the other odds and ends my wife decided should go in my office this season. To quote a song, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!”
While we should never forget the reason for the season, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ means so much to so many because of some of those decorations and food and gifts. It is a season of hope for better days, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. I am grateful to still be alive and able to still have a purpose and pleasure in the world.
But as a wise man once said, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” It’s not just the less fortunate I think of at these times. We recently did a story about a tragic house fire in Crockett. I cannot imagine how it must feel to sift through what used to be your life a few days before Christmas. Yes, your life was saved, but will the Christmas holiday ever be the same again?
Christmas always takes me back to being a young boy, excited for all the fun and gifts, singing carols and comparing the toys from my parents to the better toys Santa never failed to bring. When I think about how much my parents worked and planned and saved and schemed to make each year special – be it ever so humble – I miss my mom and others gone too soon. There are a lot of people missing a loved one this year at Christmas – maybe spending the first Christmas without someone who made it that much merrier. We don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone, as they say.
The people in Houston County are so generous and kind, never missing an opportunity to help someone in need, donating gifts and food to everyone from tiny tots to our elderly. I worry about the ones suffering who we sometimes don’t see. I have had to spend a few Christmases on my own, alone, due to some silly meeting or some job in a faraway place. I can’t remember much about those jobs, but I still remember how lonely a December morning can be, thinking about what everyone is doing back home.
One of the season’s greatest symbols – the Christmas tree itself, comes from old Europe where it would be taken inside for the winter and decorated. As one of the only trees to stay green throughout the cold months, honoring it gave those people hope spring would come and all the other pretty and tasty green things would return, too.
I have had a few people tell me they just can’t get into the mood this year. I get it, it’s been a tough year for a lot of us. But this misses the point of the whole season. While we must teach our children what the holiday really means in a religious sense, they won’t remember the stress from paying mom and dad’s credit card to get the new and fancy fill-in-the-blank-must-have expensive present this year. The memories that stay with us are of people, moments, feelings.
What do you remember? I remember my grandma playing the piano and all of us singing. I remember the good food – cheap and simple though it sometimes was. I think back on how everyone smiled and even that crazy relative you normally wouldn’t invite was somehow tolerable, if only for a day.
The birth of Christ and the holiday traditions that have sprung up around it teach us there is always hope. There is an eternal life, even if it’s just people remembering how badly you sang “Jingle Bells” each year.
So, get into the mood, give a joke present or two – we all have too much stuff, anyway. Give a gift to someone who may not have many people around them. Invite someone lonely over to show them how deeply we love one another, even with our differences.
In the words of that great philosopher Benny Hill, “Live every day like it’s your last. One day, you will be right.”
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]