It hasn’t been easy this last year to maintain a positive attitude. With Covid-19, lock downs, masks, social distancing, the closures of restaurants, bars and other “non-essential” businesses, the cancellations of traditional events and ceremonies, a person’s mental condition is bound to trend toward sullenness if not depression. Add to that, the inability to see our elderly relatives in assisted living locations, the postponement or cancellations of weddings, of funerals for our friends who have passed away and a positive way at looking at life seems to evaporate.
Part of the reason for a tendency to have a less positive frame of mind is that all of the negative things that have come our way this year are beyond our control. Psychologists and psychiatrists tell us that one of the causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the feeling that one was not able to control the event or events that caused the stress. This is true of everyone, but the experts say those in law enforcement and the military are more susceptible to PTSD because their job is to control circumstances and when they get out of control, it effects them more deeply.
Even though we are being blasted by all of the ill effects caused by COVID-19 and the many restrictions placed on us by overzealous officials and bureaucrats, there is one thing that only we have control of: our attitude, disposition or frame of mind. In his meaningful book, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl, he describes how he and others survived the Nazi death camps during WWII. In those camps, the Nazis controlled everything: when one awoke and when one went to sleep, what food to eat and how much, where to go in the camp, what slave labor one was assigned to do, etc. They governed every aspect of the inmates’ lives, except one: the prisoner’s attitude toward life and living.
What I extracted from Frankl’s book, in a nutshell was this: those that survived the death camps had one thing in common. Each individual had a goal, a hope, if you will, that carried them through that hellish experience. One person may want to see a spouse, a parent, a child or grandchildren, at least one more time before dying. For Frankl, himself, it was rewriting a psychology book he had written that the Nazis had burned before his imprisonment. Whatever the reason, it gave that individual the hope and desire for staying alive.
In Christianity, we acknowledge that we are imperfect human beings and to a greater or lesser extent, have sinned against others and our God. We know through the tenets of our faith, that we will be redeemed by a Savior promised by God. Christmas is proof that the Savior has arrived and our redemption is close at hand and our hopes will be fulfilled.
While the hope is still here this Christmas season, this will be unlike other Christmases. Since families are separated and restrictions on gatherings are in place, one is reminded of the great Christmas song, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. That song was originally written for the movie, “Meet Me In St. Louis”. It was meant to be a sad song since the Smith family at the center of the film is moving to New York from St. Louis and none of them but the father wants to make the move.
The last verse most people today are familiar with ends this way:
“Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough”
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now”
Even though the movie was about St. Louis in 1903, it was made in 1944 and the film lyrics reflect that time when so many loved ones were separated by World War II. The last verse of the original movie song ends with these words:
“Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now”
This year, like our parents and grandparents who heard the original, bittersweet lyrics in 1944, “we’ll have to muddle through somehow”. Our Christmas hope this year is “Someday soon we all will be together” and we’ll be able to celebrate Christmas, Easter and all of the other holidays the way they were meant to be celebrated, with family and friends.