At this time of year, those of us who have the time – who are not too busy ducking bombs and dodging bullets, or scavenging for scraps in some failed state or dreary refugee camp – can look back on the past and ponder the future.
No, I am not going to list the major events of the past 12 months or predict developments on the national and world stage. I’ll leave that to your local newspaper.
What I am going to do is look for signs of hope in a troubled world.
The climate change agreement reached by 195 nations recently stands out. Sadly, if Republicans win the White House and Congress next November, that deal would be sabotaged. Republican politicians are virtually alone in the world in their stubborn denial of the impact man-made pollution is having on global weather patterns.
A bright ray of hope is the example set by countries such as Germany and Canada in welcoming Syrian refugees. I am confident that the hysteria in America following the terrorist attacks in Paris and California will subside and the natural generosity of the American people will prevail.
Unfortunately, public sentiment is manipulated by the shrill voices of propagandists who would divide Americans to further their political ambitions or line their pockets – or both. But America is better than that. We shall overcome.
The civility and intelligence displayed in Saturday night’s Democratic debate also lifted my spirits. The candidates were passionate, naturally. After all, the stakes are enormous. But they were respectful of each other. It was a welcome relief from the guttersnipe behavior displayed by some Republican candidates.
That does not mean all Republicans are bad people. I don’t agree with him, of course, but when I listen to House Speaker Paul Ryan, for example, I am encouraged by his dignified and disciplined manner. I applaud his contribution to the $1.8 trillion budget compromise averting another government shutdown.
As President Obama observed, Ryan is a politician he can work with – despite their sharply conflicting philosophies.
In my view, the brightest ray of hope today is provided by Pope Francis (above). His message of love, forgiveness and tolerance rings out above the snarling and the whining so often reflected in the media.
I am also reassured every time I pass those Salvation Army volunteers ringing their Christmas bells and collecting money for charity.
And it’s heart warming when Sandra and I get a note from Lighthouse Ministries telling us it’s time to make another donation to feed the homeless. We are reminded that good people are still out there, making a difference despite the sound and the fury of public debate.
And, when we hear the Christmas music from the church fair going on next door, we know America has not succumbed to hatred and vitriol as some in the media would have us believe.
In the nation’s churches, temples and mosques, people of good will are gathering to praise the Almighty, each in their own way. And those who profess no faith still express the spirit of the holy holidays through kind words and generous gestures.
It is the season to be – if not jolly – at least hopeful.