At some point during the holiday season, it might be a good idea to pause between trips to the mall and orders from Amazon and reflect upon this world we inhabit and to the one we are facing in the years ahead.
Imagine what it must be like to be a child in Nigeria or some unstable country, awakened in the dead of night by shouts and gunfire to see relatives and friends randomly slaughtered by faceless, armed thugs.
Imagine what it must be like for a child to watch helplessly as a parent slowly dies of AIDS or Ebola in some foul, unsanitary place devoid of medicines and doctors.
Imagine the child of a family who has fled their blood-stained homeland in search of a more stable and safe place in the world to begin life anew only to be rejected at borders or confined to the squalor and emptiness of a refugee camp with no place to go or future to embrace.
Imagine how a child here at home must feel when his mother goes to the front door of the house to be greeted by uniformed men who tell her that your father won’t be returning from Afghanistan or some unfamiliar place and that you will never again feel his love or his touch.
Imagine how it must be as a child in Haiti years after the earthquake or tropical storm, to be celebrating the holiday season in a tattered, vermin-infested tent with water and basic sanitary facilities available only at unpredictable times of day or night.
Imagine being a child and dealing with the loss of a leg or eyesight, the collateral damage caused by a religious zealot’s suicide bomb.
Imagine a child being taught to hate people he has never met in order to satisfy the twisted agendas of trusted adults.
Imagine the child watching his aged grandparent struggling for every breath because he can’t afford to buy life-sustaining medication.
Imagine the child who comes home every day to an empty, cold apartment because her mom has to work two or three minimum wage jobs just to feed and keep a roof over the family.
Imagine the child watching his father deal with losing his job while the management of his former employer continues to receive obscene salaries and benefits.
Imagine the child of undocumented immigrant parents who have lived here for years as productive adults but are packing everything they own because they are in constant fear of being deported back to the life of desperation from which they had fled many years ago.
Imagine the child who has to cope with the senseless death of his brother, yet another victim of gun violence at the hands of an overly-zealous policeman or some unbalanced soul who had nothing better to do in this age of largely unrestricted access to deadly firearms.
Imagine the child, a brother or sister of a grade school student senselessly murdered by a gun-toting, disturbed killer, who wonders why grownups haven’t done anything to prevent a replay of the tragedy in some other school or venue.
Imagine the child who is unable to follow her dream of college because of the failure of reputedly responsible adults to craft a more rational path to affordable higher education.
Imagine the child who is expected to honor his country when its government repeatedly fails to address so many urgent, highly visible issues that affect the quality of life for the vast majority of Americans.
Imagine the innocent child who is bombarded with endless ugly and often salacious stories in the media and on the internet without the intellectual tools and worldly experience to process those stories.
Imagine the child who has to find a way to create a sound value system when he sees even a journeyman sports or entertainment figure making more in one at-bat or brief on-stage or TV appearance than most Americans earn in a year.
Imagine a child in this country who happens to be black, Latino, Muslim or Jewish listening to the rhetoric of elected leaders of his nation as they extol the virtues of a white, Christian United States.
Imagine being a child at a place of worship and listening to someone talk about a “good and merciful God” and trying to reconcile that message of hope with the pervasive real-world misery, pain and unimaginably horrific global events he bears witness to every day.
Now imagine, if only for a moment, just one more thing……
Imagine how you would feel and what you should do if that child were your own.
Maybe the words of the first person I ever voted for in a Presidential election said it best:
“Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
I wish all of you and your families a peaceful and thoughtful holiday season.