The nation is taking a deep breath this Christmas after another difficult year when pain and loss both abroad and at home have continued right up through this holiday season. Yet amid all the hardship, the calendar says Christmas, and Americans are particularly grateful for the comfort of their family, friends and faith.
The nation's sorrow over the Connecticut school massacre cannot help but dampen holiday feelings. The same is true for those reeling from other tragedies this year, from the loss of service members in Afghanistan to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy and other violent storms. The trees and familiar carols provide a much-needed backdrop of calm and relief. And it has been a long time since it was this important for Americans to hear joy in children's voices.
That intangible thing we all recognize as the Christmas spirit endures. Companies and private citizens are donating their time and tens of millions of dollars to residents devastated by Sandy along the Eastern Seaboard. In the Tampa Bay area, people are dug deep to make up for the shortfall in the Toys for Tots drive so that needy children don't go without. A Texas-based charity this month provided a free home to a wounded veteran returning to Tampa and broke ground on another gift home in St. Petersburg. Those inclined to keep the ball rolling have another week in this tax year to support their favorite cause.
Five years of a shaky economy has not shaken the selflessness of the Christmas season. According to Gallup, which studies these things, Americans are starting to look at other problems beyond the economy. And Congress' job approval rating has jumped by more than half, all the way up to 18 percent. It will take time for the nation to cement a full-blown recovery. But there are encouraging signs — even in Florida and Tampa Bay with lower unemployment numbers — and a confidence level that is welcome entering the new year.
Americans should also take comfort this holiday season that they are still the model for the world in the exercise of human rights and dignity. That culture is at times shattered by tragedy that cannot be explained. But the values of peace and goodwill that characterize our society embody the very essence of Christmas. That day is today, so enjoy the gatherings, gifts, memories and traditions. And keep reaching out toward those who have had a more difficult year.