John F. Schaffner
This is my 68th holiday season.
Though I don’t recall them all, those I do recall include memories of moments of pain and hurt, but many more moments of joy.
Through the years, it has always been a time of giving and receiving, of bright lights, family gatherings and hearty meals. All that brought a warmth and happiness that was greater than that enjoyed most of the rest of the year.
But I admit I did not think much about all of that when I was young. I also did not think about how people of different faiths and ethnic backgrounds celebrated this season.
As a child, I had Jewish friends, but I never knew about Hanukkah or thought about their celebration of the season being different. I had friends who probably celebrated Kwanzaa, but I never even heard of Kwanzaa until a decade or two ago.
I exchanged Christmas greetings and even gifts with these friends as a youth and never once thought about whether I was being “politically incorrect.”
In fact, I had never heard the terms “politically incorrect” or “politically correct.” I am still not sure what politics has to do with the celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.
I live in a condominium community in Buckhead in which there are friends and neighbors who celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and, I am sure, Kwanzaa. We had a holiday party the evening of Dec. 13 and most of the residents attended and enjoyed each others’ company. Many of those residents are nearly my age, but a good number also are much younger.
I heard no one mention whether the decorations, the food or the music were appropriate or “politically correct.”
When a Christian wished a Jewish neighbor “Merry Christmas,” I heard the Jewish person reply “Happy Holiday;” but there were no issues raised about what was said or the way in which it was said.
No one questioned propriety. No one corrected another about their greeting.
There was no talk of political correctness. It was just friend greeting friend, neighbor greeting neighbor and all done with sincerity and wishes for joy and happiness.
And no one admonished me for wearing a red tie with green wreaths on it, although I guess it could have been offensive to some at the party.
It seems to me that we as a world and as a people have become far too hung up on political correctness—to the point where we are often needlessly afraid to be natural, sincere and honest with our friends and neighbors for fear of offending or upsetting them.
It seems to me the problem here is not with the person giving a compliment, or offering a holiday greeting, whatever it might be. The problem is with those who find impropriety in the best of intentions offered by others.
Just as we have become far too litigious people—always looking for a way to make someone pay us for anything—we have become far too hung up over what is and is not politically correct.
Granted, I am older than a lot of people, having grown up in an earlier time, when I just interacted with people without thinking of political correctness.
I personally think it was a less complicated and friendly time.
I believe if we all lighten up a little bit, we likely will enjoy life more, be less judgmental of those with whom we come in contact and enjoy each other’s company more as well. I don’t claim to be wiser about this, just older.
But, as one who has lived through much, I believe we all then will experience less discomfort and more joy in our relationships these holiday seasons. That is my idea of political correctness—individuals enjoying each other for whom they are, not just what they are.
So, Happy Hanukkah, a joyous Kwanzaa and, yes, a very Merry Christmas from me to all of thee.
And, may all of us enjoy a healthy, prosperous and Happy New Year together, in a world of peace and love for one another, regardless of our religions or ethnicity.
One more thought
The holidays are always thought of as a time for giving. In fact, I was always told “It is more blessed to give than receive,” although I questioned that thought when I was a child.
This holiday season it is even more important for those who have the ability to give whatever their resources will allow in order to help others less fortunate.
The impact of the economy during the past couple of years—the large number of people who have lost their jobs and who have lost their homes to foreclosures, in addition to the normal needs of helping the poor and homeless—has put tremendous strain on those charities and service organizations which traditionally provide this help but are suffering from having less resources available, with even more to do.
This year consider giving up one gift for each person in your family, or limit the total expenditures on gifts.
Instead, give what you saved by doing that to those groups that can help pass some holiday cheer along to those who will face a bleak holiday season without your help.
Don’t rush past the Red Kettles of the Salvation Army without giving a small donation.
Drop off a toy with those collecting for Toys for Tots.
Add a few dollars to your tab at the grocery store checkout. Do what you can, where you can this season.
Your gifts for others can add cheer and happiness to your holiday spirit as well.