Christmas reveals our capacity to make a difference to others

Christmas for our family has been blessed for years by the wisdom of two mothers, both now gone but living on in the spirit of their generosity.

Christmas, and life in general, is about "adding love to the way things are," my wife's mother, Marjorie Rini, told us in her smiling, gentle way.

And my mother, Edith Barrett, managed to wake up on Dec. 25, even in her hardest times, believing that Christmas morning was a reminder to see the world as being "as beautiful as it really is."

Both women spent much their lives putting those feelings into practice, as millions upon millions of others do here and around the world every single day. It is their kindness and faith in the goodness of their fellow humans that really keeps the world from falling apart.

As Mohandas Gandhi said: If the human world really was as horrible as it seems at first glance, it wouldn't have lasted a second. It's the countless acts of tolerance, forgiveness, kindness and generosity that are the sustaining fabric of life on Earth.

Marjorie Rini and Edith Barrett gave of themselves but never thought they were anyone special, even though they were. Whether it's taking care of the poor and hungry, struggling for the rights of children, listening deeply to friends in need, helping in some small way to lift a stranger's desperation, or cleaning your church, caring for your neighborhood, taking the time to pick up litter or recycle, giving back to the world your energy and concern - that's what daily life full of year-round Christmas is about, those good people in our lives have taught us.

Yes, Christmas is verging on insanity when it comes to our consumer culture. And, yes, the Christmas shopping season is all about economics in its crudest forms.

But I think the nobler spirits of the season would have found a lesson in even that. When good people spend so much of their energy giving to other folks, they show us that everything in our lives is connected, somehow, either to the well-being of others or to their hardship.

Take waste. Waste can cascade into deprivation. Reading about the Senate finally passing an energy bill with fuel economy raised to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, and thinking about how many years we've wasted precious gasoline by not doing it sooner, we can't help but wonder about the impact of low-mileage cars on rising food prices.

Gasoline consumption has had a significant impact on rising food prices, to the tune of a 4.4 percent increase over last year. That's twice the overall rate of inflation.

If even the smallest kindnesses and savings can add up to big pluses, then even the smallest waste and callousness can subtract from the well-being of us all.

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
December 22, 2007