During the holiday jubilee, it's important to remember that its evil companion, tragedy, never takes a day off and can show up on any doorstep at any moment.
For Crystal River resident and local folksinger Mike Roberts, holiday tragedy has already visited him threefold.
On Nov. 21, he got the telephone call that is every parent's worst fear: His daughter and two of his grandchildren were killed in a car crash in the western Kentucky town of Dawson Springs.
Amie Danielle Roberts, 28, was driving her children Michael Rich, 10, Laurel Bliss Buzzard, 6, and Lilly Bliss Buzzard, 7, to school about 7:45 a.m. Probably they were talking about mundane matters in their final seconds: what to eat for dinner, or perhaps planning a trip to the mall.
"She topped a hill and hit a log truck from behind,'' Roberts said Wednesday. Reports from the Kentucky Highway Patrol confirmed the facts of the crash. The truck, the Highway Patrol said, was stopped, waiting to make a left turn, when Amie's car came over the hill.
Michael and Laurel died. Lilly was airlifted to a trauma center near Nashville in critical condition. She suffered a fracture to her neck, but was released earlier this week, Roberts said.
On Wednesday, he was driving back to Citrus County, after spending a week in hotel rooms and hospitals.
Chances are you've heard Roberts sing and play guitar if you've ever been to one of the many outdoor art festivals or coffeehouses where acoustic music is part of the entertainment.
My musical duo, Carousel, preceded him on the stage in October at the Crystal River Wildlife Refuge Festival, and I remember seeing him smiling at me from the audience.
Mike and I have jammed together on many occasions over the years. These jams usually come after the main gig is over and just the musicians are left, each one willing play at least one more song.
Mike is a guitar player in the folk music group Boone's Fork and also plays solo gigs. His raspy voice, a cross between Jimmy Buffett and Kris Kristofferson, has a way of getting inside a person's heart.
Mike is, in the parlance of musicians, a "weekend warrior." He plays just about everywhere, usually for free. Just the therapeutic fun of getting on stage and entertaining is reward enough.
And his music adds an extra measure of enjoyment to any event. That's the way music works: It's a two-way flow of positive energy between musician and audience.
Tonight, his fellow folkies at Woodview Coffeehouse will have a benefit concert to help Mike's family with the funeral expenses.
All proceeds, even the performer's fees for the main act, will be donated to the Roberts family, said Jim Davis, organizer of the Woodview Coffeehouse.
This is typical of the folk music community. It loves to help. And when the chance comes to help one of its own, the response is immediate and sincere. Among the performers will be Mike Jurgensen, Kate Hart and a host of others who will take the stage during the open mike session.
Woodview Coffeehouse is at the Unity Church, 2628 Woodview Lane in Beverly Hills. Music starts at 7:30 p.m. and admission is $4.
As a way to say thanks for all that Roberts has done for the community by sharing his musical talents, maybe you should plan on attending tonight's event. He is not a rich man, and the funeral expenses are still to be worked out, he told me Wednesday.
I've been to many coffeehouse gigs, and I can assure you that the music, uncomplicated and soulful, will leave you feeling just a little bit better about your place in the world.
And on a more spiritual tangent, please remember that the holidays are full of nearly equal measures of peace and stress. While searching for holiday bliss, at some point you may find yourself in a frustrated crowd of shoppers or stuck behind a driver not going fast enough to make that red light.
At that point, remember Mike Roberts and his awful cross to bear.
Take your foot off the accelerator. Smile at the nice lady who just grabbed the last video game off the store shelf. The one that your kid wanted. Instead, get home safely and enjoy what you already have. Say "I love you'' to someone. Call your mother.
Tomorrow is promised to no one. When it's your turn to go, will the community turn out to honor your memory? If you're unsure, better get busy on those good deeds.
IF YOU GO
The benefit concert starts at 7:30 tonight at the Woodview Coffeehouse at the Unity Church, 2628 Woodview Lane in Beverly Hills. Admission is $4.