Christmas is an interesting time of year. Of course, Christmas has become very commercial. It has become the backbone of many retail businesses. Then there are the crowds. Today I went to the grocery store and could hardly find a parking spot. This is at 1:00 PM on a Wednesday.
This blatant commercialism isn’t the whole story, however. There are plenty of people reminding us of the true meaning of Christmas; plenty of people reminding us of the importance of family and friends and wishing everyone Peace on Earth and good will toward all mankind. Or, my personal favorite: “May you keep the spirit of Christmas throughout the whole year.”
It is also a time of year when people look back over the year—for whatever reason. When I look back over this last year several things stand out. I think the most disturbing is the fact that there were over 300 mass shootings in the last year. While each incident, each perpetrator is unique, there are similarities and patterns. For me, one thing stands out: Anyone who decides to murder as many of his neighbors as he can is sick in spirit and mind.
This proves to me that: MENTAL HEALTH IS EVERYONE’S BUSINESS. You might say, “What can I do about it?” Well, today s your lucky day. I’m going to tell you.
- The pay of those working with the mentally ill is generally awful. While most are mission driven and do the best with resources at hand, many are not. Sometimes you get what you pay for. What can you do about that? Pay for mental health workers is often a legislative issue. Write your legislators.
- What are you doing about your mental health? There is this idea in this country, especially among men, that we should logically decide what to do and through strength of will make it happen. No consideration is given to our feelings. People work long hours at stressful jobs. Henry David Thoreau said that most of his contemporaries lived lives of quiet desperation. Has that changed? WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?
- A little compassion goes a long way. Whenever you notice yourself being afraid of something, ask yourself where compassion fits into the picture. Remember compassion means “suffering with”. The time for compassion is not when somebody pulls out a gun and starts shooting. Compassion is most effective when applied early. Perhaps we could shift our emphasis in education from competition and (dare I say it?) sports to ensuring each child knows they matter, that they are part of a community.
- As a nation we have to stop bullying people around. You can’t beat someone into loving you. It DOES matter IF you vote and WHO you vote for. I believe that everyone who has the right to vote also has the obligation to vote. Listen to what the candidates are saying. Don’t let them use fear to bully you into voting for them.
- Learn everything you can about mindfulness. Practice every day. If you are feeing less stressed, everything is easier.
This may sound a bit simplistic, but here’s the thing: A society is made up of individuals. How the majority of the individuals in a society think defines the society. Therefore, the more individuals who are not ruled by fear, who acknowledge their emotions but are not ruled by them, who exercise compassion when dealing with each other; the more peaceful that society will be.
Merry Christmas. My Christmas wish for you is that you keep the spirit of Christmas throughout the year.