“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” What a great song.
As a child, I grew up looking forward to Christmas year after year. The snow, the goodies, the family gatherings, the shopping, the caroling, the parties with dear friends and new friends, and the gifts truly made this time of year the most wonderful of all. As an adult, I continue to look forward to these same events with great anticipation and experience them with unparalleled delight. Over the years, however, I have experienced small changes regarding the meaning of Christmas; mainly in my conscious perception of the world around me.
I see Santa bouncing babies on his knee as photos are snapped, parents and grandparents busily shopping for just the right gifts, and volunteers jingling bells for monetary donations. My husband and I, as we do every year, prepare ourselves for service at the nearby Bishop’s storehouse. As we help families fill orders of donated food for their Christmas dinners, the world seems blanketed in the happiest season of all.
This past week, however, has brought a new perspective into my purview. As the holiday season has approached, I have received two US Veterans who have committed suicide into my care. Neither veteran had living or caring family members about them. In this world, they felt alone. It was a pain too deep to bear as the holidays approached.
I have thought about that quite a bit this past week. For my entire life, I have volunteered during the holidays in one benevolent project or another. I have donated gifts for needy children, I have filled food orders, I have served hot meals, I have caroled at rest homes, I have sewn blankets and bandages for lepers, put programs together for military families, and the list goes on. If there has been a request for assistance during the holidays, I have probably stepped up to help. That is just it though; I have only helped. It has occurred to me that after the holidays, the problems and issues that I have assisted with still exist.
I was complaining to my daughter the other day that Christmas was a little bit sad for me this year as I will not see any of my children or grandchildren. She suggested that my husband and I adopt a family for the season. I have been deep in thought about that. How can you adopt someone for a season? Adoption indicates permanence. Additionally, do I want to personally take on someone else’s problems? Adopting them indicates that I am taking responsibility for them. I would not be able to place a band-aid on their Christmas needs and then walk away as though all were well, would I?
At church, I teach the women’s group every second Sunday. My lesson topic next week is the “Vast Reach of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” That word “vast” has a very specific meaning. It does not indicate small or limited; rather, it is indicative of immense and far-reaching. As I review the vast reach of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I am so thankful for the possibilities it gives me to reset my life. It offers me opportunities, based upon my ever-growing understanding of my responsibilities as a daughter of God and follower of Christ, to adjust my course and improve upon my actions and attitudes. It allows me to become a better person as I realize that simply serving strangers in need during a focused period of the year, is not sufficient.
The suicide of two US Veterans in my small community as the holidays approach is not acceptable to me, nor should it be to anyone else. I have seen a quote, “Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you, Jesus Christ and the American GI.” While it may seem inappropriate to compare the mission of the American GI to that of our Lord and Savior, I offer this juxtaposition. Jesus Christ’s mission was to enlighten and offer immortality and eternal life to the children of God, His and our Eternal Father. The American GI’s mission is to secure our opportunity to participate in, or reject, that mission. Both have offered their lives toward these ends.
Christ was an example for the world. His mission to enlighten and save souls remains unparalleled by any other. He would not have merely served soup at the kitchen during the holiday season, donated toys at Christmas to needy families, or sung carols to the elderly and forlorn; He would have painstakingly sought solutions to wipe out the cause of such poverty and suffering. He did not worry about taking on the problems and issues of those who were deserving; He championed their causes and directed the world toward peace and goodwill. Peace and goodwill are not seasonal expressions; they are eternal principals. If we are to follow the directives of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, should we not incorporate His teachings into our hearts and actions every day of the year?
As a funeral director, I see the pain within the hearts of those who suffer. Moreover, although they are dead, I see the pain within the hearts of the two US Veterans lying in my embalming room. This sort of hopelessness is not acceptable under the mission of Jesus Christ. No one should ever feel so desolate that they would kill themselves. It is not enough to wish others well as we put money into their deserving pockets, pass them on the sidewalks, or at church; we must engage in Christ’s mission. We must take it upon ourselves to adopt His teachings and apply them to ourselves year round.
That sweet Babe lying in a manger had so much to teach within His short lifespan, and His wee baby shoulders carried the weight of the world upon them. I am grateful for His mission. I am thankful for the opportunities He created for me to reset my life. I am humbled by His wisdom and His incomparable suffering on my behalf. I have grown from His examples and have realized that I must take it upon myself to adopt the sufferings of my neighbors and strangers and lift their burdens. That is what the Savior taught during His short life. That is what I must do during mine.
Please join me and adopt the Savior’s admonitions to lift our fellow being’s burdens as our core endeavor. Together we can eradicate the desolation thrust upon so many of our American GIs, thwart the threat of suicide, erase poverty and hopelessness, lift up and protect the sick, the poor, the afflicted, and the innocent; and establish “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” not as a mere seasonal band-aid, but as a year-round way of life