Embrace the yuletide spirit

Ah, here we are again, celebrating the Christmas season.

When I was a youngster, the time between Halloween and Christmas took an eternity. Then the various locales began putting up their holiday decorations (we dare not associate our secular municipalities  with Christmas!). 

My family would go to department stores and the Christmas songs were playing over the public address system and the malls were lined with lighted trees, wreaths, tinsel garland and signs to see Santa.

“Six Santas! No waiting!”

I saw that sign in MAD Magazine once and still think it’s funny.

The excitement reached a fever’s pitch, especially when you grew up with similarly-aged kids. The parents of our contemporaries often collaberated on the phone: “What are you getting your kids because whatever you get them, our kids will want the same thing.”

That just meant the excitement trickled down to the kids, which was like playing youngsters with coffee and circus peanuts for the next month. Back in my day, we wished for bicycles, baseball gloves, footballs or basketballs, or the latest analog toy. I remember getting one of those vibrating football games (which I still have somewhere). That was a big hit.

Nowadays, I don’t know what kids want, or if they even get excited about Christmas.

The world sure has changed. You watch or read the news on TV or the internet and you wonder how everything went so crazy. And you just know that some of this craziness, fomented by certain precincts of parents (or activist school systems) trickles down to the kids. 

You know, I’m no different than anyone else. I have my allegiances, my preference and my opinions. When I’m not covering them, I root for the Vols. I’m a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan. I even fancy the Grizzlies and Predators. Given some of my loyalties, I still get a bit of jeering from folks who fancy different teams. As long as it’s good natured, I’m fine with that. Just don’t get too crazy with the trash talk. I never liked trash talk, even when I was playing. I wanted to let my performance do my talking.

But some people look upon me as evil incarnate because I dare to pull for my (delapidated) Redlegs, or resurgent Vols or any other team I align myself with. That’s a shame. Frankly, I really don’t care about other people’s allegiances, orientations or opinions. People, in my view, are free to think and feel what they want, as long as no harm comes to anyone.

Have an opinion I disagree with? I’m cool with that. I don’t debate anymore, because, frankly, debate between friends is pointless. But even if I disagree with you, I’ll defend you right to have that opinion. As such, I’ve never “unfriended” anyone on social media because they view things through a different political prism than I do. But I can assure you, many have banished me from their social-media realms. That’s fine, too. I’ll still treat those folks with dignity and respect.

With me, you are going to get what you give.

I was thinking about a topic to write about this Christmas and it occurred to me that we are willing to excoriate and nullify people, people who are our friends, because of differing viewpoints. I find that ironic because when I go to sporting events, I see people of varying races, religions, orientations all joining together to pull for a team they fancy. They celebrate, embrace, savor the moment, enjoy the victory, commiserate in defeat.

Why can’t we be that way in everyday life?

I hope that, during this Christmas season, regardless of what side of the stream you dock your political boat, we can take time and reach out to those we disagree with. Wish that person a merry Christmas. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son. That’s His gift to us and is the cornerstone of the season. If we could spend a little more time thinking of others in a positive way, irrespective of what banner they fly. The holidays always seem brighter, I’ve found, when you can do something for others, even if we don’t agree with them.

Maybe I’m being idealistic. Yeah, I like the Charlie Brown special, the Christmas carols, friends, family and the holiday fare. I like watching the bowl games this time of year. I used to fancy to the colder weather, but I’ve kind of outgrown that. I understand that humankind is in a constant state of flux. Nothing ever stays the same.

Maybe the X-box and the latest cell phone is what kids want these days. But seeing their eyes brighten during this season never gets old. I hope that never changes. 

In the meantime, is it at least conceivable that we could agree to disagree this holiday season and leave it at that? Embrace the spirit of the season, lift up our neighbors and enjoy the kind feeling that giving brings us. I hope we aren’t too far gone for that.

To all those who visit this corner of the paper and listen to my radio show, I wish all of you a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2023.

Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox, which airs 4-6 p.m. CT, Monday-Thursday on 95.9 FM, WRJB radio, Camden, Tenn.

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