During the holiday season, make time to assess, adjust and commit

December 26, 2022 7:00 am

(Photo by Maria Marganingsih/iStock Images)

In the midst of holiday festivities with family and friends — and the anticipation of a new year — it is unlikely we are able to totally escape the sense of unease about our personal situations, or feelings that our nation and the world seem unmoored.

While the holiday season offers a brief respite from our troubles both near and far, perhaps the best gift it gives us is the opportunity to assess and commit to needed adjustments in our lives.

We can carve out some quiet time — maybe just an hour or two — to reflect, gain a better sense of direction and inner power to keep moving forward in positive ways for ourselves, our families, our communities and our world.

Even if it takes more than a couple of hours to put things in proper perspective, imagine the potentially great return on a small investment.

Questions may loom in your mind: How much is really in my control? How much can I change?

Much more than you might think.

Thoughtful introspection is a great first step, examining the principles and beliefs we hold that foster or hinder achieving the positive personal or societal changes we would like to see.

There are many benefits to be gained.

As a starting place, some things to consider:

  • Contrary to what we may have been taught, no individual is an island or the center of the universe. We all occupy space. We all have purpose and roles to play in sustaining our family, community and country.
  • We are all interconnected in obvious and less obvious ways, requiring mutual respect and collaboration to address common challenges and problems that could be mutually beneficial.
  • The sustained quality of one’s life need not be built on the backs or at the expense and exploitation of other human beings.
  • One does not have to go about his or her daily affairs with utter, even partial, disregard for their neighbor, colleague, friend, relative or stranger.
  • Ignorance, perhaps, is bliss, only in love and only for a time. Remaining ignorant provides the breeding ground for vulnerability, keeping the least suspecting in the dark and at a disadvantage.
  • Burying one’s head in the sand — ignoring what is and pretending it does not exist — solves nothing. We learned that from the ostrich.

We are in the 21st century. While we hope and expect to see the same kind of advancement in our common humanity as we see in other areas of our lives, we find ourselves instead in the midst of political, cultural, religious and economic chasms so wide that they appear to be permanent divides.

Where has the pre-eminence of working for the common good and civility gone?

There has always been political unrest, wars, abject poverty, human rights violations, downright inhumane treatment of ethnic groups including ethnic and religious cleansing in different places across the world. Fortunately, America has not experienced these extreme conditions and atrocities on its own soil.

But we all know America is experiencing its own set of challenges — politically, socially, culturally, and economically.

  • The political vitriol and divisiveness are at an all-time high not only among elected officials but among ordinary citizens. Conspiracy theories are trumping our collective sense of reasoning, culminating into January 6 and all its consequences.
  • The majority of the public lack understanding of the Constitution and how our government should work, and the continued decline in civic engagement.
  • Instead of improving racial and cultural relations, they are worsening — even among young people once considered the best promise for real progress.
  • Our sense of safety from wanton gun violence evaporates almost daily, no matter how many innocent lives are lost or forever changed.
  • The economic disparities among the haves and have-nots grow wider, with no real efforts to change it in sight.
  • As long as the major problems and challenges we face as a country linger and go unresolved, the more they impact the quality of our everyday lives.

As dreary as examining these conditions can seem, they provide great opportunities to reconnect with some fundamental and inescapable tenets of what make for a healthy society that we have lost sight of.

We can begin by reminding ourselves of the basic age-old premise that it is the kinship, and mutual respect afforded to and should be extended by each of us that advances humanity.

Perhaps we omit or avoid including that realization along with others when opportunities arise in our daily conversations.

When we look around in our homes, in our religious, educational and political institutions, discussing the need to return to civility should be as much apart of any dialogue or discussion as any subject at hand.

As we pause to celebrate the holiday season, there is no better gift than to ready ourselves for the work we can engage in during the coming year to make things better.

Each of us can do something.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.