Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Greatest Gift

What do you say on what's supposed to be one of the best days of the year to a world of people that have lost so much?

On thanksgiving, I talked about trying to find the hidden good in the situations we find ourselves in. The zombie plague has taken most of what we are, but at the same time it's burned away the dross and left us stronger and more pure.

Christmas is different. It has so many meanings. For Christians, it is a celebration of the life of Jesus. For others, a time to give generously when the world is cold and harsh. Yet others simply celebrate togetherness and the warmth of being a family.

For me, on this Christmas, I think about the real gifts we've given one another. Regardless of the season, we now live in a world as hard and sharp as the dead of winter. We've given each other the gift of life--fighting for one another to protect. But violence, even when it is meant to preserve, is so integral to who we are as a species that it's an easy gift to give.

We've given each other that gift of life in other ways. We've buckled down and learned to farm, working our fingers in the earth until our muscles protested and our bodies became weak. We have learned to make things to preserve life, people with no experience at all striving to understand the workings of armor. It may seem strange or silly to you to think of these things as gifts, but they certainly are. It would have been much easier for so many of us to become marauders, to take and take from others. I see the gift of honest effort as one of the greatest that has been given to us by each other, and I thank you for it.

The single greatest treasure that we've shared is also the one that surprised me the most. Seeing my fellow citizens of the compound, both before and after the other refugees and I fled it, find moments of real normality. Watching people tell jokes and invite others over for dinner. Seeing two sentries have a friendly disagreement about what NBA team had the greatest legacy. Watching a young boy and girl share that same first peck on the cheek that one of them would call their first kiss for the rest of their days.

We have been changed in ways that may take years for all of us to fully understand. We can't do the things we've done, make the decisions we've had to make, and remain the same people. The world as it is has shaped us and removed the complications that used to clutter our everyday lives. It has made us grim and frighteningly realistic about the risks we face on a daily basis.

But it hasn't taken the core of us. Everything I have seen makes me believe that there is something inherently good in people, powerfully so. When the worst case scenario came, we struggled and suffered, we cried our tears. Instead of falling into the instinctual behavior to kill and take, we found ourselves sharing compassion and love. We allowed ourselves to feel completely at ease with the way life is now, to take small pleasures and pass them on to others.

That's a gift that can't be measured. You have all given it to me, and I to you. Today, let's celebrate being alive and together. Remember with a happy pride that we've accomplished that by treating each other as we wished to be treated, and acting like the civilized people that we know ourselves to be.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanuka. Whatever your reason for the season, enjoy today. You made it happen.

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