The steady drumbeat of depressing economic news has threatened to quash any sense of joy on Christmas Day, and indeed this morning there will be fewer presents — or less expensive ones — under the tree in many homes. But today is about much more than measuring who got what for how much. It is day of renewed faith, of counting blessings and holding loved ones, of reaching out to those who could use some cheer.
Americans have been warned for months, as if they needed a heads up, that this Christmas, with the recession worsening, would be different. The snow that paralyzed half the country this week only added to the desperation that millions feel to break away from the slog of routine and worry. The nation faces another tough year — but not today. Christmas is the chance to appreciate what we have, to indulge in sweet moments of nostalgia and to create new memories.
Christmas is a season of fresh starts. That is especially worth remembering today, as millions of Americans cope with losing their jobs, homes and retirements. Though the economy is weak, the nation can look forward to a new year, new leadership and a new sense of direction. The historic election of President-elect Barack Obama deepened the fabric of civic life. The nation sees an end in sight for bringing its troops home from Iraq. There is reason for anxiety, but there also is cause for hope. And that should inspire the country in this time of crisis.
Americans have not let their worries over money blind them to the less fortunate this holiday season. While the climate for charities is tough, four of five Americans are still giving something. The donors who gave $10,000 checks to staff at a Safety Harbor school were but one example of the many who have helped others this year. People short of cash are giving their time as volunteers. It is no surprise the recession has made residents across the social and economic strata more aware of the state of their communities. The surprising part is how much donors are identifying with those in need and responding.
The Christmas spirit is alive. All the uncertainty makes the traditions that much more comforting. It may be the religious services, lights in the windows, the surprises of simple courtesy or the dish whose taste has not changed for generations. Whatever the day holds, it is a time to celebrate goodwill and kinship in a world that needs more of both. Merry Christmas.