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Hope for the Holidays

In a span of six days last week, two different people I know were impacted by events that would seem unrelated. But, to me, they are related. At the very least, maybe my psyche just needs them to be.

On December 8, a Saturday night, a young couple I know welcomed their first child into the world. It was a happy occasion, obviously, and happy, too, for their parents, who became grandparents for the first time. There’s something heartening about how much joy such a little package can bring so many people.

Six days later, another person I know – a woman who doesn’t have kids herself – revealed that her 9-year-old niece had been one of the children hiding in a closet at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Her reaction to her niece being in harm’s way – she was unhurt physically — was probably much like most of the world’s when they learned of the tragedy: shock, horror, sadness, disbelief. But she made another comment, too, about not being sure about ever wanting to bring a child into this world.

It’s an understandable feeling, I guess. When things like this happen, we’re reminded that there are some screwed-up people in this world. But when I think of that baby born six nights earlier and how much love and happiness entered the world with him, I get the feeling we need MORE of that. Yes, what happened in Newtown is horrible. But it shouldn’t be something that makes us give up hope.

And a new baby means new hope.

The young man who committed the atrocities was seemingly troubled. Whatever pain or sickness or whatever he was going through has left this earth with him. It’s the kind of thing that shakes your faith in humanity no matter what the shooter’s motives were. It’s another instance of “How many more times is something like this going to happen?”

I don’t have the answer for that. But I hope young couples, such as the new parents I know, don’t think like that. I hope that they don’t regret bringing a new life into this world and instead see the hope that new life provides. I am hoping they realize that they have an opportunity to love, care for and teach a brand new member of society and that by positively influencing their boy’s life, they can positively influence the world.

Instead of being discouraged by the world they’ve ushered a child into, I hope they see the opportunity for it to be a better place for their son. As horrific as the events of Dec. 14 were, I think it can be a better place.

I still choose to believe that most people are basically good. Usually, this time of year reinforces that belief for me. The holidays are a time of giving, and if you look around a little, you can see examples of it every year. I don’t usually need those “restore-my-faith-in-humanity” moments, but if you’re someone who does, the holidays are usually a good time to find them.

You might see people dropping coins into the mall Santa’s collection kettle. You might see a young person helping an older one out with his or her groceries. You can read news articles about toy campaigns so that less-advantaged children can have holidays, too, and about food drives to provide holiday meals. Every now and then, you might hear a story about the guy in front of somebody in the drive-through line paying for their meal, too. It seems to happen more this time of year.

If you look, you might find these sorts of moments, the “paying it forward” examples that seem to provide glimmers of hope about the people on this planet. The holidays are about hope, after all.

If your hope is shaken now, I can understand. I won’t tell you how to begin to be OK with what happened. I won’t try to suggest there’s a silver lining in it somewhere or give you some sort of reassurance that time heals all wounds. That all seems kind of empty right now.

What I will tell you is that I won’t give up hope. I won’t stop believing in people’s goodness or lose faith in humankind. The holidays will help illuminate that hope, but those will pass in a few weeks.

When they do, we’ll get to choose how we look back and remember them. I’m going to do my best to remember the promise a new life brings into the world, and THAT – unlike tragedies – occurs every day, all over the world.

There is hope. And I hope you can see it.