Saw a bumper sticker with an often seen saying today, "Jesus is the reason for the season".
Winter solstice celebrations are as old as mankind, I think. Certainly the Romans had Saturnalia (Lindsay Davis has a marvelous picture of it in her Falco mystery "Saturnalia", the Druids has solstice celebrations, and on through the centuries from religion to religion.
What they are all about is gathering in the darkest time of the year and bringing some light to things. Sharing with family. Helping those in need. The quote I've used every year from Charles Dickens says it:
"But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it
has come round ......as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable,
pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the
year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up
hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were
fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound
on other journeys.
"And therefore, uncle,
though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I
believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God
Let me tell you about Gwen. It's really her name, but I know she'll never see this, never go on the Internet. Not sure if she's ever used a computer.
Gwen is about 60, a very large, sweet faced African American woman who has probably had a lot of hard things and very little love in her life. She came to work at the library via a program for older people that places them in jobs and gives them training, paying them an hourly wage.
The first thing Gwen WANTED us to know is that she is mildly developmentally disabled. She didn't put it that way, think she said something about not being "smart". But she also wanted us to know that she was willing and would work hard.
And work hard she does. If I am careless enough to leave something in the lounge sink after a party, Gwen cleans it up. She clears the mess that is the children's ref desk in order to clean it. She picks up books after the kids have made a mess of the place, even when I've told her I'll do it myself.
She cleans and cleans and cleans and takes great pride in her work. This fall we got another woman (this one library staff) sent over to help and when she didn't do what was needed, Gwen bristled and raised hell.
"She's not going to mess up MY library!" she declared.
We had our annual holiday party yesterday and I realized that we had not done anything to thank Gwen for all her hard work.
So with the help of one of our circulation staff, I took up a collection for her. Times are hard, but we collected over $100 for her. And I bought a money card to hold it last night.
We gave it to her this afternoon and she was so overwhelmed she broke down in tears and it took us a fair bit to calm her down!
"I don't think she's had much appreciation in her life,"our circulation manager commented to me afterwards.
"My day isn't going to get better than that," the staff member who helped with the collection told me. He and all of us had been moved to near tears by seeing Gwen's pleasure in our gift--and in what lay behind it.
THAT'S the reason for this season.
Happy holidays, no matter which ones you are or aren't celebrating.