I can’t stop thinking about Ed Gebhart’s column that appeared in the local paper on Christmas Day. For me, it speaks to the rollercoaster of emotions the Christmas holiday season can have on us. Although his story takes us down memory lane as he reminiscences back to the 1940s when he was 10-years-old little boy, there are lessons to be learned from his experience we can all embrace today. 

If there is ever a time of the year we want to be happy, it’s the Christmas season. No matter the heartache or challenges of the year, most of us will try to bury any grief or bad vibes with holiday music, good food, gift giving, parties, and family fun. We know January will be sneaking in next week with a fresh new take on reality, so let’s create as much fun, excitement, and diversion the law allows until then.

Gebhart shares his delight when he saw the brand new football waiting for him under the tree. No other gift mattered. That football brought him unspeakable joy. He went straight outside to play with it at 8 in the morning. Before long, the other boys came out to play and eventually picked teams to play football. They started the game with the ragtag ball they were used to playing with before one of the kids decided they’d play with Gebhart’s brand new football. Either the ball was going to lose its newness or Gebhart was going to lose his friends. One of the kids kicked the ball into a mean old man’s yard who never gives balls back, but this time he did after destroying it first. Gebhart was heartbroken. 

I’m not sure how old Mr. Gebhart is, but I’m willing to bet he’s writing about a Christmas that occurred about 80-years ago, and he’s never forgotten the moment. How many of you remember a particular Christmas? Is it because of something good or something bad? 

Many people have had year after year of good Christmases but can’t remember much of anything from more than maybe a few of those Christmases. But, if you’ve ever had a bad Christmas, you’ve probably still got that bad Christmas burned into your frontal cortex. 

How many people are experiencing their bad Christmas in 2020? Over 325,000 Americans have died of Covid this year. How many friends and family members does that add up to who aren’t celebrating Christmas with one or more of those who passed? Hundreds of thousands are in the hospital or sick at home struggling to recover from Covid and its complications. Millions are out of work and can’t provide for themselves or their families, let alone participate in the gift giving ritual. Millions are evicted or facing eviction and don’t have a living room to erect a tree or a dining room to serve a meal. Millions may soon to be cut off from unemployment compensation and have no money for nothing.

No one promised us a Merry Christmas every year. If you’ve had more good Christmases than bad, I’d say you’ve done well. There’s no shame in struggle, especially if it’s not your doing. Scrolling through your social media timeline looking at all the perfectly happy Christmas holidays your friends are having this year shouldn’t get you down – and if it does, step away from the smartphone, now!

In our lifetimes, there hasn’t been a period where so many people at one time aren’t feeling the joy even though they may feel they are entitled to joy just because it’s Christmas time. The truth is, like Gebarht’s football, there’s someone or something that’s deflated your joy. 

If you’re having a joyous holiday, consider yourself blessed and don’t feel guilty about it. If you’re going through some life challenges right now, don’t feel guilty about that either. Consider how many great Christmases you’ve had and look forward to the ones to come. 

Let’s look out for those who had it rough in 2020 so more of us can look forward to an enjoyable Christmas holiday in 2021.

Make that your #1 New Year’s resolution.