The holidays have always been a tough time for me. Growing up in a divorced family, my siblings and I try diligently to make everyone happy, see all sides of the family for an equal amount of time. It’s never actually worked out that way and we always fail at it. As the oldest child, I’m intrinsically obligated to shoulder this burden and take it personally, right? My birth order demands that I take on more guilt than the most devout Irish Catholic out there. Mrs. Reese has threatened more than once to perform an honorary Confirmation to officially allow me into her guilt-driven clan. I digress.
My default setting this time of year is to opine about how much our first responders sacrifice for society. Working the holidays. Eating a sack lunch in the squad car between Domestic Violence and Drunken Disorderly calls. Fact of the matter is that cops, fire, and EMS aren’t the only folks keeping us on the rails. What about the long-haul trucker that’s several states away from his family so that our goods can fill the store shelves? The waitress and short-order cook working the roadside diner? You know that’s the best-worst coffee available for the road trips to make it home for the holidays. The convenience store clerk selling you those lucky Christmas Eve lotto tickets. They don’t wanna be at work anymore than the cops and hose draggers. The little bump in holiday pay isn’t worth the trouble, even though our budgets usually demand it.
From my own professional experience, I can confidently tell you the holidays are tough for most people. The number of domestic assaults goes up. The aging and infirm among us throw in the towel and refuse to see another year pass. The kids are sick, all the time, like their little germ factories are working for overtime pay, too. I don’t know anyone past the age of 10 who really gets to enjoy the Hallmark Christmas or Hanukkah. The pressure, expectations, and stress of all we put on ourselves is too much. All the wrong things done for all the right reasons. Some of our neighbors crack and take it out on those closest to them.
This year, our family’s doing something different. We’re boycotting Christmas. Not the actual holiday, just the materialism that’s gotten out of hand for us. Instead of gifts, we’re all going together and donating time to local charities. The little kids will still get something small, and I think stocking stuffers are still on the menu. But, in light of all our blessings, we need nothing else. We are safe, warm, and loved. There’s food in the fridge and the lights are on. Not all can say that. We’re wealthier beyond our entitlement, and I’m grateful for it. I also wanna do something for folks who can’t do anything in return. If you’ve already started The Absolver: Rome, Merci Renard’s statement about volunteerism is absolutely my truth. I hope the change in our little family becomes a tradition.
I expect that helping my neighbors will brighten this season, despite all my failings as the eldest caretaker incapable of superhuman time travel. Maybe I’ll execute perfection next year. I won’t hold my breath, so we’ll probably pass out some warm clothes and smiles instead.