All I want for Christmas…REALLY???

all i want for christmas

by Kenneth Justice

~The day after Christmas I was sitting at a café early in the morning when one of my really close coffee friend’s came in…”What are you doing here? I thought you were going out of town for Christmas?” I asked

My friend had a frown on his face, “Kenneth, ya know how I told you I bought the airline tickets to New York a month ago to spend Christmas with my sister and her husband…..she died 10 days ago” he said

It turns out his 65 year old sister had a heart attack two weeks ago and died upon making it to the hospital. And so my friend and his family spent the week leading up to Christmas at the funeral home mourning her death. Both of my friend’s parents are dead, and now with the loss of his sister….the only close family he has left are his older sister and brother.

Life is so very strange……because as I was spending Christmas Eve enjoying the beauty and wonder of the holiday at Christmas Eve Mass, my very good coffee friend was spending it mourning the death of his sister. As children all across the Western World were waking up in delight as they opened presents on Christmas morning… friend was waking up with the hollow feeling that the death of a loved one leaves in your heart. My father died in 2008 and rarely a day goes by that I don’t in some way remember him……in fact, I think of him more now that he died than I probably did when he was alive.

Each morning when I write my article I’m torn between the subjects I can choose to write about… any particular week I meet people at coffee who share with me the joys of new found love or the happiness of a new job they got…..but I also talk with people who are suffering heartache connected to past abuse they have suffered, the loss of loved ones, or those who are struggling financially. The world around us is filled with thousands of stories overflowing with joy and happiness, yet there are just as many stories filled with sorrow.

One of my favorite novels is The Count of Monte Cristo. Between the ages of 13 and 15 I must have read it at least six times. The story starts out chronicling the passionate and exuberant love that the hero Dante’s is experiencing with the beautiful Mercedes….yet in the flash of a moment Dante’s life comes crashing down as he is tossed into the pit of hell, sentenced to an eternity in a dungeon prison for a crime he never committed…..Dante was on the top of the world riding high on the waves of love, yet in a moment everything he held dear in life came crashing down.

So much of our own lives parallel the joy and agony which Dante experienced. While sometimes we bring tragedy upon ourselves when we make poor decisions…. more often than not we have no control over the bad things that come at us in life; sexual abuse, gossip, death, economic struggles, emotional abuse, the list is endless. Every day we are surrounded by people who are experiencing tremendous amounts of joy, yet also sitting next to us are people who are going through trials and tribulations that run the gamut of emotions.

For those of us who don’t want to live in the dark, for those of us who want to talk about the things that matter most; we have to find that balance between being fully aware of the bad things that exist in this world, while at the same time retaining a level of joy in order that all of the evil doesn’t overwhelm us. So much of this world doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes bad things happen to good people; “The rains falls on the just and the unjust alike“. Sometimes there is no explanation and no logical reason why some of us are spared from suffering….and yet others seem to spend their entire lifetime dealing with one tragedy after another.

I was born into one of the most affluent cultures in the world. Yet on the other side of the world are children living in abject poverty that seems almost unthinkable. The AIDS epidemic has ravaged so much of the African continent and coupled with the wars, racism, and poverty all across Africa I often feel ashamed that I haven’t done more with my life to reach out to my fellow humans on the other side of the globe.

I’ve often thought that worst thing we can do in life is to live in a bubble; to close ourselves off from the true reality of life around us. It’s far too easy to say that we ‘have no control over things’ and to shrug them off as someone else’s problems. Because the simple fact of the matter is that some of us can do more. For those who of us who have been blessed with opportunity; it is our responsibility to give to others, “To him who has been given much, much is required“.

—-) There are so many single mothers out there who are struggling to keep their head above water

—-) There are so many people suffering heartache who need a shoulder to cry on

—-) There are so many people out there who have lost their job

With the New Year approaching and many of us enjoying the happiness of parties and revelry; there’s nothing wrong with being joyful. But we must always stay grounded and aware of the realities of life which often involve sorrow and heartache…for if we do not, than what kind of person do we really amount to?

For now its time for my morning coffee,



(btw, if you’re bored and looking for something to do on New Years Day…check back on my blog for my New Year’s announcement)

Categories: Culture & Society

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59 replies

  1. Reblogged this on Writing Out Loud and commented:
    A meaningful, thoughtful piece worth reading

  2. I experienced this piece as even more personal and heart-felt than usual; it touched me on a deeper level. As always, I appreciate your art and your soul. Thanks for all the work you do.

  3. God bless you, such a reflective and sympathetic post. I enjoyed reading it

  4. Well said once again, Kenneth.

    It’s so easy to shut our eyes to sorrow and pain, but it takes courage to welcome it into our lives and take heed of it’s lessons and empathise with it’s sufferers. We may feel “what can one person such as myself do?”.

    Regardless of our material, financial and social status, we can take the time to listen (for a start).

  5. Always put yourself in the other’s shoes. If you feel that it
    hurts you, it probably hurts the person too. All I want from Christmas is Peace of Mind.
    Kenneth, where’s my coffee? 😊

  6. The holidays are a special time for most, but a very hard time emotionally for others. Thank you for pointing out the “less than joyful” spirit that some people experience during the holiday season. We need to look around us and extend a hand to those who need that hand to hold!

  7. I so agree with you on here.
    Only thinking of having does not take away the griefs going on, a heart beat away.


  8. Joy and sorrow, two entities which walk together. One is born, one dies. We celebrate both. On Christmas’ time we go to cemetery and light a candle to our beloved ones. We are selfish, we cry and mourn because they are not longer physically around us. Once a priest told me we should let them be there, they are happy & we are sorry…This is the way it is. We can say a lot but do less. Only God can tell what is in our soul on joy or sorrow. I cannot find words to discribe these two emotions.

  9. In the past 6 months both of my parents lost a sibling(my parents are the eldest surviving siblings on both sides of my family now) The last was the week before Christmas..Just happened & on the evening of our church Christmas Cantata(and we’re in the choir) we found ourselves traveling home to New Orleans ..Imagine one minute singing gospel Christmas songs in front of a church crowd; and next traveling at night fall to a close family funeral!?! It was truly a switch of emotions ; but we did it..Life? Its taught me to embrace and force myself to live IN the moment…That is actually more than just a cliche; and harder than it looks..I’ve learned to take nothing for granted..Especially loved ones & extended family of friends..I’ve also learned that NO plans we make are above being changed by other things..MANY this season were homeless , starving, and/or not clothed enough for the weather they lived IN..Tis the season of love; but many are suffering..That is the thought I thought over and over this Christmas..Made me pray harder for them and made me appreciate! the love I was surrounded by Christmas and every day..My heart goes out to your friend during his time of mourning..It isn’t an easy part of life to let go..I’ve marveled at how my parents are handling all the deaths they’ve seen..I wonder how they really ‘feel’ as they’ve now buried all of their parents and a total of 7 siblings between them..And that isn’t counting other family members funerals over the years(and good friends..) My Daddy said that is what happens when one lives long enough to reach their mid 70s..And though his lips say it matter of factly; I know still in his heart it isn’t easy saying goodbye to so many..Anyways, I’ve said more than I intended; but this piece invoked alot of thoughts still fresh in my heart..Tis the season for such thoughts and feelings..Thank you , as always, for sharing..

  10. And, the hunger situation in this country at this time (USA) is unsurmountable. Food banks are begging people to donate food for the hungry. Yes, I do understand that some of that food may go to some who don’t deserve it, or some who are drug users and abusers, but even these people have children that must be fed. I truly hope you will write an article about this one day since your blog reaches so many. God bless you!

    • It is the same here in England. My husband is involved with Food banks here in the UK. People have been so amazingly generous in the lead up to Christmas that he has been overwhelmed. It is a great blessing to be able to give to those in need. Last Christmas someone donated a Christmas gift. On Christmas day, we were called out to make up a food parcel for a young girl in desperate need and facing Christmas alone. We were able to give her the gift and she was overwhelmed. It was perfect for her and gave her something to do on Christmas day. I think people are willing to give so much because they recognise that there but for the grace of God go I and that the tin of food you donate goes directly to the family in need. It is a worthwhile thing indeed. Thank you for wanting to raise awareness about it

  11. “To him who has been given much, much is required“.- This has certainly challenged me as I reflect on 2013 and look at God’s plans for me in 2014. Thank you.

  12. You are wrong Kenneth there are far far far far more suffering than are experiencing happiness, your seem to suggest just as much. And not all children wake up eager to open xmas presents surrounded by loving family; some are orphans, maybe their parents died of Aids, maybe they have it passed on in the womb, maybe they are in an orphanage or the 6 yr old is looking after the 4 year old or perhaps they live way below the poverty line and am grateful for the next meal never mind dream of presents celebrating the birth of a God who has abandoned them.

    The affluent feel magnanimous in donating and sending help to the unfortunates and their feel good factor is boosted. The poor do not need pity, they just need a fair share of what’s around. If their own governments weren’t corrupt, stronger countries didn’t interfere in their nation’s politics, invade in the name of helping them, maybe they could eventually help themselves and not need charity just to survive.

    Sorry but this post is a bit smug.

    • Cho wan yau,

      well, I’ve been called a whole lot worse than ‘smug’ so don’t be sorry…I appreciate your views on the subject. There are definitely so many people across the world who are suffering and in poverty and I can’t truly imagine what life must be like for the men, women, and children who find themselves in those situations.

  13. Amen “brother” (…pardon the expression) ;). I enjoy reading all your thoughtful insightful posts, something to always validate. The rain falls on the just and unjust alike… Yup!

  14. Hi Kenneth. You really have a great blog. I don’t know if you are into accepting blogger awards, but just in case you do, here is Here’s a little Christmas present for you and your blog: God bless you!

  15. As I play for numerous funerals, and my husband is gone for so many hospital visits just this past 2 weeks alone—-as our whole community suffers as one of our young vibrant parishioner mothers suffers from brain tumors . . . and so many others are on our list of prayers–I hear you. You don’t need to tell us personal things about you to tell us who you really are. I thank you for your compassion. That is what matters. Peace.

    • Dana,

      yea the life of a pastor and there spouse during holidays can be incredibly difficult with the numerous services, and then funerals as well…..I can only imagine how much work the two of you put in…peace to you 🙂

  16. Reblogged this on Eucharistimatic and commented:
    Thoughts full of purpose.

  17. As you well know moderation is a hard line to walk. We live in a world of extremes and instant gratification. During the holidays there may be more talk of the less fortunate, occassionaly there will be a news story about a grave injustice that has happened and of course celebrity outrages are always wide-spread public knoweledge, but for the everyman, most of their struggles go undocumented. It’s easy not to care when we’re not told that much. I know firsthand that even in the “giving season” that the majority of people don’t like to focus on the negative things that happen to others, they don’t want to acknowledge them because often they don’t want to feel responsible to do something about it. Until it becomes their problem, or affects someone they really love then it’s not worth thinking about too much. I have always thought, however, that it is our responsiblity to find that balance. It is our duty to extend a hand to others when we can. In a world where terrible lessons are taught to new generations each day, there needs to be people willing to instead set an example of kindness, of common decency and of selflessness or the human race will fall and there will be none who know how to save it. The world needs people like you who are willing to post about the positive and negative aspects of humanity, to provide a balance of insight to inspire the rest of us.

    • “Until it becomes their problem, or affects someone they really love then it’s not worth thinking about too much”

      I think this describes my own self when I was younger…but I am slowly trying to get myself out of that mindset…thanks for the great comments 🙂

  18. It’s amazing to me how often there’s the thought that “unless it’s in my own backyard it doesn’t matter,” but the truth is, that mentality is why so much has gone totally awry in recent years and in multiple ways. I agree that it’s important to be reflective and to consider others’ plight but sadly, it’s not so much a requirement as it is a responsibility and so few want to be responsible for more than just themselves. It’s so unfortunate. It also amazes me how lucky I’ve been in my life and how good it is despite my complaints about certain things here and there and how tragic others’ lives can be, not all of their own doing. I don’t know how or why that happens but it does. I think part of it is about having a positive aura or mindset if you will. In my experience, those who have a lot of negativity in their world continue to do so because they continue to have negative feelings about things, which influences their decisions and that contributes to more bad things happening. This, of course, isn’t always the case. Some people just have the worst luck for some reason and I don’t get it. That definitely reminds me to be incredibly grateful for how good I have it but also to try and pass it on to others when I can – hence why I so fully believe in volunteering. The giving of time to others is priceless.

    • “definitely reminds me to be incredibly grateful for how good I have it but also to try and pass it on to others when I can – hence why I so fully believe in volunteering. The giving of time to others is priceless.”

      in many ways I relate to your own life Jen….because when I think about it, I haven’t had it ‘that’ bad at all…and in many ways I am blessed so I feel a double responsibility to do something more with my life other than play video games or watch tv all night.

    • I suppose it all comes down to knowing that it’s good to share, this also means sharing anything positive in our lives. So that’s what I try and do. I really hope to expand my volunteering to groups dealing with kids, etc. I have lots of passions lol just need to pursue them 🙂

  19. You’re writing speaks to me every time. Wish everyone could hear this message. And hope people (including myself) could act on it too.

  20. At least you were there, your friend could share.
    Many times less the “clever solutions” are the important, more the opportunity of sharing, both internally, both externally…
    When we feel “we are not alone”, we can start to gain hope, and power.
    Because when we are heard, we are loved…

  21. If we could all translate this level of compassion, (not pity), into action the world would be a much nicer place. A great post to set us all thinking…

  22. I made it home for Christmas this year just in time for my mom’s brother to pass on Christmas Eve morning from brain cancer. What a way to start the holidays. Your post has been helpful today. I read it early this morning and it helped keep things in perspective all day. Thanks for that. 🙂

  23. Such an important piece and perspective. Thank you for sharing!

  24. I love your list – but wish you would have added to the list to remember these folks too:
    —-) single dads
    —-) widows
    —-) single income families that stretch their money each week and fight to keep one parent home
    —-) any single person that is maybe needing connection –
    —-) and maybe those who have plenty – but are lonely in the midst of many and much-

    anyhow, I agree with the other comments – another nice post.

    And I have to admit that reading your post actually felt like getting a cold glass of water in the face because this week’s photo challenge (for a postaday) is the word JOY – and so after smiling, laughing, and chuckling while viewing dozens of “joy” pictures – this post was like unplugging the dance music!
    But as always, you wrote in a way that presents the heavy without being too heavy on our heart – and I like how you ended with the note to embrace and soak up the joyful seasons, “But we must always stay grounded and aware of the realities of life which often involve sorrow and heartache.”

    • Y. Prior,

      I concur….all of those you mentioned and more 🙂

      Joy for me is often a difficult subject because its so easy for me to get caught up in the problems that myself and others face that it can be hard to find joy in the midst of agony…..but like all things we must remain faithful to what we know to be true .

  25. This is absolutely perfect. I do appreciate both its eloquence & timeliness. Thanks for “liking” one of my posts so I could follow the trail back here.

  26. I’m always astonished at the people who prefer to live in ignorant bliss. I’ve had friends tell me they don’t want to know where the products they buy are made because they will feel compelled to do something about it. They rather ignore where their coffee is from, for example, because they’d feel compelled to buy more expensive coffee. There are people who suffer because of those decisions. We should embrace the good but not contribute to t he evil that is willful ignorance.

    • everything u said is so true….I’ve been trying to by fair trade coffee for a while now…that’s something I really like about Starbucks, since 2000 they’ve only been making and selling fair trade coffee 🙂

  27. Yep, 2013 was our year to lose our family too. We lost a mother, father and sister all within a 6 month period and just before Christmas ( dad on the 22nd ). We had a lot to be sad about but much to be appreciative of – we are a story and ‘remember when’ type of family and with a young child, we have had to make sure that we never forget to face forward, regardless of what happens. Thanks for the upbeat end, it matches the way that we all need to live. We are currently in France ( a planned pick-me-up after mum’s death rocked us back in June ) and every day we see something that our loved ones would have appreciated – so we appreciate it for them in remembrance of them. Bring on 2014 and onwards we shall go.

  28. Hi Kenneth,

    I had this good friend who used to spend ten months of the year in Zambia and the other two months in England with her family. She loved it out there, but once she was bitten by a mosquito and contracted malaria. Her system was weakened by the disease, but she carried on working until her clinic which she set up to serve the surrounding villages was going well. I contributed a little to the project, and they bought some materials to make a playground for the children.

    All was going fine until Linda had an asthma attack and passed away. That was getting on for ten years ago, so the clinic is probably no more. She worked out there for a good ten years, helping people with primary health care, including AIDS, and she wanted to start an orphanage too, but her time ran out, sadly.

    Some people have the will and the charisma to set things going. I wouldn’t know where to begin. Linda used to say that she loved dancing with the people and sleeping under the stars.

    We need more people like her, and the more these issues are discussed, the more likely it is that trained volunteers will go to help them. So well done for your post, and have a great New Year.

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