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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Peace and Good Will

As I write this, we are still weeks away from Christmas, when for a brief moment it is traditional even for those who traffic in demagoguery to pause and suggest that we pray for peace and good will toward men. Indeed!


This charade of false piety from those whose daily occupation engenders neither peace nor good will is a lot like the decorations that transform homes and shops, turning entire neighborhoods into some Hollywood imagined confection. It is shiny and sparkly and if you don’t stop and take bearings you might believe that it is done with good intention rather than a cynical blend of merchandising and manufactured sentiment. I say Bah Humbug.


Not Humbug to peace and good will—but Humbug to the substitution of conjured sentiments for the real feelings we engender or at least should at this time of year. Whether you are religious or not-whether you believe that this day is a celebration of an infant birth destined to change the world—to bring us to a place of peace and good will, it is undeniable that billions around the world hold this day sacred. Even if not believers many will still feel a twinge of gratefulness and hope. For some it is all about family. For others it is the brief cessation of hostility that threatens everyday life—an act of individual humanity, or a sense of renewal. Whatever it engenders in you—that is the spirit of genuine peace—of true good will that we must find a way to sustain for more than a few brief minutes.


Let me suggest one place we might start. Let us each make a resolve to reject hate. Yes, I know that seems monumental but I mean this is in a very modest and personal way. I mean, let us look within and choose to forgive real or imagined slights—drop the labels and characterizations that lead us to see each other as opponents, threats, as inhuman creatures. Let us accept that while there may be malevolence in the world—that others may say or do things which are injurious, hating them for it does nothing more than fuel an on-going repetition of the same behavior we escape for that so brief moment one day a year.


It is probably too much to ask that we do good—though many are inclined to show charity, neighborliness, and restraint on this day. By all means if you are so inclined please do so—but not for a few hours, for the rest of your days, however many they may be. It would be more than enough to simply stop hating. Think of the relief. Wouldn’t it be such an enormous weight removed to feel what we do in that instant of humanity one day a year, every day of our lives? We are cynical, however, and suspicious ready to pounce at the first sign that our neighbor does not wish peace and does not practice good will as we see it.


Giving gifts –exchanging greeting cards—these have nothing to do with this day. A friend remarked recently on the card she had received from her Dentist—much the same as the one I get every year from my insurance broker. While they did not offend neither do they alter by one degree our fundamental relationship. That is because they are transactional, sent to acknowledge past business rather than foster any real engagement with one another. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure my insurance broker is a fine gentleman, but his greeting card is as impersonal as the sentiment it expresses. Why do we feel it is necessary to practice this pretension?


Perhaps you recall the O’Henry story, Gift of the Magi, many of us read in school. A husband and wife each give up a possession of great personal worth in order to purchase a gift for the other. The husband pawns his pocket watch to buy his wife a comb while the wife sells her long beautiful tresses to buy a silver chain for her husband's watch. The irony isn't lost on us, but what we may have missed is the real story. The real gifts were the love each had for the other leading them to sacrifice what they held dear. Let me say it again, the real gift was love. That is the gift we should present to one another this year—real love, the only peace and good will any of us needs.

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