My first Christmas as MLA for Rossmere was spent in Rossmere – with students and school leaders, at community craft fairs, church services and eventually with my own family, giving and receiving gifts and enjoying the delicious food of the season. Friendship is the sweetest gift when we learn to give of ourselves with respect and receive from others with love, and I was blessed to meet hundreds of people in Rossmere over these last few months.
I particularly enjoyed visiting seniors homes and hearing stories of past bravery and accomplishments, admiring couples celebrating nearly seven decades of marriage, appreciating conversation with a 95 year old, and witnessing new romance between seniors finding love in old age. These people are living proof that the losses and sadnesses we all encounter need not define the rest of our lives, and that hope is never out of reach, no matter where we find ourselves.
Now with Christmas over, decorations packed away and no festive celebrations to enjoy, many struggle to find meaning when faced with January’s subzero temperatures and a perceived relationship freeze accompanied with the end of Christmas activity and cheer. These winter months often bring the so-called winter blues, an unpleasant wait for the deep freeze to thaw and give way to the new life of spring.
Perhaps it is the emphasis we place on others at Christmastime which makes it “the most wonderful time of the year,” and perhaps by extending that emphasis throughout the year we might find unexpected joy to overcome the doldrums of the worst winter months.
My wife Ruth and I are deliberately cultivating not only our own family closeness but also time with friends, even amidst the busyness of political life. We have tried out some new recipes, and I recently tidied up the garage and hope to sort through some piles of old things in the basement. We often take the new year as an opportunity to review our lives and priorities and begin to think about plans and aspirations for the next 12 months. It’s often not glamorous stuff, but each accomplishment brings a small amount of peace that with time grows to saturate our home and lives with contentment and joy. And when it comes to increasing these virtues, it is direction that counts more than speed. May all our hearts and homes be directed this year toward the joy and peace that includes others, not just as a fading memory of Christmas, but as a habit that lasts the whole year.