What Kind of Who Are You? A Christmas Reflection by Karen Bell

The recent news about Omicron has deflated me in a number of ways, but one in particular.  I am ready for a greater sense of oneness in my town, my nation and the world. Covid-19 has tested unity in profound ways. It’s not so much that I suffer from pandemic fatigue (though believe me, I do) but the fact that we find ourselves in different places than we did that fateful March of 2020.  During the initial lockdown we were all on the same footing.  Everyone was home, vaccines were not yet on the horizon and we were all struggling with many of the same difficulties, including trying to wrap our heads around what was happening. Now we are divided into different pandemic camps: the vaccinated and unvaccinated, the masked and the unmasked; those who eat in restaurants and those who eat at home; people who travel, go to parties and sporting events and people who spend time mostly at home among their small circle. Navigating decisions about how to interact can be frustrating and exhausting and, for some, dangerous when it leads to threatening encounters with strangers. I wonder how long we can continue to endure this societal pain inflicted by the coronavirus.

I have come to believe we cannot get through this pandemic nor past our mourning for the ways of living that have been lost to us these last two years, without first liberating ourselves from the illusion of control, a particularly thorny thing for me to manage. Hope – that I will not only weather this experience but find pockets of joy in it – is essential. Christmas especially kindles a deep hope for Love to permeate our broken world and reveal all that is possible for us, not just as individuals, but in communion with one another. Sometimes though, I struggle to remain hopeful. Enter Dr. Seuss.

The other day I happened to hear a recording of a Boston Pops performance of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  It was a more intense experience to listen to the text and its accompanying musical score rather than to watch the cartoon. Though I know how the story ends, I keenly felt the tension as the Grinch schemed and executed his Scrooge-like plan, hell bent on stealing every vestige of Christmas from each Whoville home. And then came that magical moment as the Grinch listens intently for the crying of those bereft inhabitants and instead hears the entire town welcoming Christmas Day in joyful song. Christmas “came just the same.”  

For the Who’s, the trappings of the holiday were merely that – trappings, symbols – not the real stuff of Christmas. As I listened to all of Whoville lifting up voices, hearts and each other, I realized THAT’S IT!  That’s hope in its purest form!  Gimme some of that!  This marvelous ability to look past the desolation of their town, that stark and barren emptiness and to gather together as community and find joy in the arrival of Christmas – well, somebody get me a Whoville real estate agent right away! That’s Who I want to be!

Indeed the manifestation of Christmas must be through us. We are the light because we are infused with the One Light. And light is most necessary when the world looks bleak, dark, inhospitable as in the midst of a pandemic which continues to chip away at us, both literally and figuratively. Let us kindle this light within us and bring gifts of joy and hope into the world through our encounters with one another, especially the Grinches among us. The unity of Whoville need not be merely a figment of Dr. Seuss’ imagination, rather it can serve as an inspiration for us to come together around that which binds rather than divides us. 

Now, who’s up for a serving of Roast Beast?

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