This Christmas marks the end of another difficult year for the nation and most Americans. The wars, the recession and the selfishness in Washington have taken their toll. But there also is hope this holiday, both here and abroad. And Christmas is the day to relish this spirit in the warm embrace of family, friends and tradition.
No gift compares to having the last of America's troops home from the fighting in Iraq. For the nation's military families, this Christmas marks a bittersweet moment. Thousands of men and women in uniform will gather for the first time in a long time under the tree and at the family dinner table to share the holiday with loved ones and remember those comrades who never made it back. Americans can honor them by fostering the same sense of peace and goodwill in their communities that Luke wrote about in the very first Christmas.
The traditions of the season are especially comforting in these tough and uncertain times. Too many Americans are still jobless. Many more cannot find enough work to do or the incomes their families need. Americans have also lost confidence in their leaders. At 11 percent, Congress' approval rating is at an all-time low. The anxieties that have built up over years have worsened the partisan divide even as America faces new and serious challenges that demand national unity.
Yet in this season of hope and renewal, there is still plenty of it. The pollsters at Gallup, who should know about these things, say consumers are increasingly optimistic; seven times as many Americans say they are happy as those who are under stress. Despite the down economy, America ranks first in charitable giving, up from fifth in the world last year, according to a new global survey. And the American ideal is spreading in the darkest corners of the Earth. In Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and elsewhere, those yearning for democracy have taken on the fight for themselves. This nation sets an example for others who are moving in a positive direction.
This Christmas may not be the most bountiful for Americans. But the joy of giving and being together, the lights on the tree and the carols our grandparents and their grandparents sang are what make the holiday magical. The sights and sounds will end soon enough, and life will return to the ordinary. So enjoy Christmas Day. Savor the memories and make new ones. And remember that peace and goodwill do carry on if only we allow it.