A Bit of Hope for the New Year

I have a confession to make. I have been rather grinchy. I am not proud of this. It seems that I’ve been in a bad mood for over a year now. It has been difficult to be cheerful and optimistic. I am really struggling with the direction our country is taking, and live in a very conservative town. I have many friends and neighbors that are happy with the current administration. I feel greatly conflicted about these good people, since it seems they are, at best, stupid, or at worst, evil. Which makes me judgemental. And possibly a jerk. I don’t really want to belabor this, but my general outlook has been gloomy. Christmas kind of snuck up on me. We didn’t get our tree until last Saturday, I didn’t decorate much, and have been quite “bah humbugish” about it all.

Even Christmas music has been getting on my nerves. “Baby, it’s cold outside” just doesn’t feel festive, it is creepy, in this #metoo time. So by the time Christmas Eve Sunday rolled around I was unfortunately in a bit of a funk. Thankfully, we had only Sacrament Meeting, which was mostly Christmas hymns. I am not a good singer, but since my husband is the choir director, I sing with the choir, and the program we practiced went well. The bishop asked if the choir could go and sing to some ward members that aren’t well enough to attend church. So we all met up at an elderly couple’s home. The brother has many health problem, and has had a foot amputated. The sister has severe dementia. We crowded into their home, and filled the room. The sister clearly didn’t recognize any of us, but had a bemused smile on her face. As we shared our songs with them, her husband was very appreciative. But our sister, who had been our ward chorister for years, sang along. She remembered every single word. There was hardly a dry eye in the house. The room was full of spirit and love. I felt something unfamiliar, and perhaps it was that my small heart grew three sizes that day. It felt miraculous to me.

I still don’t know how to understand my neighbors and their views. But on Christmas Eve Sunday, in a small home filled with saints, I felt again my love for them. All was calm, all was bright. I felt a glimmer of hope, of belief that surely what we share is greater than our differences. I did not see a bunch of misinformed voters, I saw my brothers and sisters. It was a tiny moment of true Christmas spirit. In this new year I will try to remember that feeling as I work toward peace and maybe even understanding in my heart.

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6 Responses

  1. Spunky says:

    Thank you for this. I’m dealing with similar grinch-ness or at least grinch-ness for me. I’m feeling better now, and hope for reconciliation.

  2. Ziff says:

    This is great, Ellen. I’m totally with you in having had a hard time with people around me who are supportive of such awfulness as Trump and his cronies bring. But it’s encouraging when we can find common ground. Thanks for the post.

  3. Ellen says:

    Thanks, Spunky and Ziff. I really don’t want to continue frustration and anger as a lifestyle, but given the awfulness of the daily news, I’m not sure how to move forward. Any helpful hints?

  4. Tim says:

    Your post reminded me of a TED talk by Kathryn Schulz – https://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong#t-656559
    In it she talks about three assumptions we make when we disagree with other people. They are either ignorant, idiotic, or evil. Having lived through many political cycles now, from Reagan to Clinton, Bush to Obama, and now Trump, I see how a significant portion of the country falls into the same frustration you face, on both sides. And then the tide turns and the other half is frustrated. In my experience there are three options, and only you can decide which is best for you: 1.) Engage more fully to try to understand the opposition, why they think and believe and act the way they do. This is painful at first, but in my experience has brought great peace; 2.) Double down on your convictions and fight with all your energy. This won’t likely change anyone else, but standing up for your beliefs is always good and sometimes therapeutic; or 3.) Simply walk-away. I don’t mean give up, I mean pick your battles with your emotional health in mind and try hard to ignore those things which won’t ultimately bring you peace and joy. This is the reason why I often avoid Gospel Doctrine class. Sitting in the foyer is much more peaceful.

  5. Em says:

    I’ve really struggled with this last year being hard and feeling pessimistic about the next one. Today my palliative measure has been to say “it isn’t the worst year ever. 1348 was worse.” We aren’t being ravaged by the black death. Could be worse. I doubt this is a helpful tactic for anyone else but somehow it has helped me to be not QUITE so extreme in my thinking.

  6. Patricia I Johnson says:

    Lovely story, a spiritual feast indeed. Music saves religion for me. I am very grateful for the opportunity to sing in the choir.

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