On the Warmth and Humanity of the Holiday Season

Woops, I forgot to post last week’s commentary. But it’s still appropriate.

This is the holiday season. For the Gottlieb family, half the days in December are occasions for giving – birthdays, anniversaries, the 12 days of Christmas and the 8 days of Hanukah, plus remembering my dad who died on the first night of Hanukah. When my in-laws were alive, Christmas did indeed take quite a while as waves of relatives came to town or we stopped to see them. Now that we have two granddaughters, every day we get to see them seems like a holiday whether it has an official name or not. Officially, the family comes to us in Albany for some holidays, while they go to our daughter-in-law’s mother for others. It’s a wonderful time, caring in ever widening circles.

I attended a dinner recently, put together by a woman who organizes a staff of swimming teachers, many of whom used to work for the Red Cross before it reorganized how it would deliver local services, and listened as several of them brought up ways that they could help the shut-ins they encountered in their work and others they’d hear about – to cheers from all around the table.

A few evenings earlier I attended a dinner with members of our and another congregation and some of the people that they are helping under the auspices of Family Promise. A few years ago I had written a court brief about why it was perfectly appropriate and legal for our temple and a nearby church to use our houses of worship to help the homeless. But this night they were introducing me to the program I had supported, and a family we were supporting. It was an absolutely lovely evening. I think I spoke a couple of years ago about former students of mine who were helping soup kitchens and similar organizations on both coasts, and in different religious contexts. I have no doubt that it is as rewarding to the souls of the providers as it is to those who come in search of help.

It’s also a special privilege to learn about the success of some of the people we’ve helped. Unfortunately, unlike the LGBTQ community, there hasn’t been a big push to come out and announce having been brought up on welfare. But I’ve known, and you’d recognize, some very deserving and successful people who spent time on public assistance while they were growing up. And I’ve spent enough time in the law to know that the things that happen to people aren’t always their own fault – even what we think of as mistakes aren’t necessarily anyone’s fault.

So I appreciate the spirit of the season and admire the efforts of so many people to make it last. And I’ve been blessed with enough friends on or from several continents to know that good, lovely, admirable people, come in all kinds of packages. So I’d generalize: peace on earth, good will toward all men, women and children. Happy Holidays.

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