First, you need to know something about my neighborhood: These wonderful people would decorate a dog house to celebrate a new litter of cats. If someone created National Apple Pie Day, my neighbors would special order red lights to hang from their eaves, carve their oak trees into apple cores, and cut their grass to look like crisscross crust.
What I’m trying to say is these folks have spirit – yes they do.
Side note: In a desire for journalistic integrity (that oft-lacking trait), I asked my chief researcher, Mr. Yahoo van Google, to make sure there isn’t already a National Apple Pie Day. Turns out it will be celebrated on May 13, 2018. There’s also a National Orange Cat Day, held on Sept. 23. Not to be left out, there’s also National Mutt Dog Day. Technically, there are two National Mutt Dog Days: One observed on July 13 and another on Dec. 2, which I found because they have their own Facebook page.
My neighbors did not decorate for any of those, so I’m only half kidding about their spirit – how ‘bout you? (You know you wanted to finish that cheer.) But if you drive through Shepherd Park Plaza – as many of you do during the holidays – you know of what I speak, which leads back to that afternoon when I spotted all the families in their front yards slamming tangled lights against their mailboxes.
Even though my neighbors always do it up big, something is different this year. The decorations, they’re grander. There’s more energy invested in that one extra ornament hanging from the treacherous limb just a foot too high for OSHA. A house on one corner of my neighborhood literally broadcasts a Christmas movie on the side of their house every night.
Normally, it takes a couple of weeks to get our streets in tip-top shape. A few stragglers (usually me) wait until Dec. 10 or Dec. 15 to really get the lights burning. Not this year. It’s like people skipped Thanksgiving and went straight for the egg nog.
And this isn’t just my neighborhood, because I’ve driven through the Heights, Garden Oaks and Oak Forest and I’ve seen the same thing. We’re all just a bit more excited about this holiday season than we’ve been in the past few years.
Now, I’m no social psychologist, but I do play one in this newspaper. Let me offer my observation on what’s happening around us.
No matter your creed or religion, the celebration of Christmas is about the birth Jesus. Despite what some may tell you, Jesus was (and to many, including me, is) a real person. He was not the subject of some fictional account, but rather a biologically real person who came to offer love, joy and peace.
I don’t use this column to preach – always thought that was better left to the pastors – so don’t think that I’m about to beat you with my stocking-covered Bible. But bear with me, if you can.
Whether you grew up Jewish, Christian, Muslim or none of the above, we all know why Jesus was sent to earth. We’ve been taught it – maybe not in our homes – since we were old enough to remember. And if for no other reason, we associate love, joy and peace with Christmas because we’ve seen it written in cursive writing around half of our decorations.
Again, you may not be a believer, but even the most skeptical among us knows that truth.
Want to know why I think we’ve spent a little more energy on our Christmas, or “holiday,” decorations this year? It’s because every single one of us would nearly die for a little more love, joy and peace right now.
We don’t write about national politics in this newspaper (you’re welcome), but the tone that has been set in our nation for the past two years has been nauseating, at best; treasonous, at worst. If we didn’t know any better, we’d have thought the leaders of our two major political parties were working in tandem to destroy the unity that once defined the United States.
It’s not just the politics that have lost their peace. We, the people, have lost our love for one another. We seek the worst, not the best, in each other. If it’s OK to cite the Bible, we mock the specks in the eyes of others while we stand with a two-by-four in our own.
And if there’s joy left around us, it’s sure hard to find. Rather than celebrating the wonderful place we live, with the endless opportunities at our feet, we scour around in search of our next reason to riot. It’s just fine to peacefully riot when times demand; it’s not fine to riot without ceasing.
Every writer in every generation will tell you things are worse than they’ve ever been. I’m not that guy, because our nation has traveled this road before. Not in my lifetime, but surely in others.
I don’t know why we’ve all been more adamant about hanging decorations. Maybe they had a sale at Sears. Maybe the weather was perfect for untangling lights in our front yards on the day after Thanksgiving. But I’m not so sure.
I think we’re glad to have dug out from Harvey’s soot. I think we’re excited that we have something to think about other than the constant stream of anger that seeps through the glare of our smart phones. I think a lot of us are ecstatic that we can break from that and enjoy our family, friends and faith.
Go take a ride around town this weekend and look for yourself. Maybe I’m wrong. Then again, maybe we all want to see a little more Light.