The post-Christmas challenge

6 years ago

Even before the pre-dawn light began filling the room, even as our elderly cat Rudy tried to find a place to settle between our pillows, I was thinking of what lay ahead in the coming days.

I don't know anyone doesn't enjoy Christmas. Sure, there's a lot of grousing (from me included) about how early we're subjected to holiday music. And, yes, the commercial aspects of the holiday season can feel oppressive at times.

But on the day itself, people's better angels come out.

-- Strangers passing by on the sidewalk look you in the eye and wish you a "Merry Christmas."
-- Fellow shoppers at the neighborhood grocery store seem to share a we're-all-in-this-together attitude as they wait in line with more patience than usual.
-- The guy in front of me has no cart and nothing to put on the conveyor belt. Instead, he tells the cashier he came in to pay $6.00 for the Sunday New York Times he grabbed off the newspaper rack earlier, when there was no one around to take his money.

It's all good. And it makes me wonder, is it possible to be civil to each other when we aren't on our best holiday behavior? Can we be more patient with the driver who changes lanes without signaling or the bicyclist who blows through a stop sign? Can we be more forgiving when a sales clerk is less than efficient with the cash register? Or when a restaurant meal is less than perfect?

Sure, these are small questions and I'll apologize now if I'm one of the first to lose it. But, still, it's worth thinking about. Does it take a national holiday -- a sacred day to most -- for us to treat each other with respect? Why can't we just get along every day?

The late Christopher Hitchens, the prolific and often bombastic author noted for his atheism, raised a provocative question during an interview with a Portland magazine nearly two years ago that still resonates with me:

 [S]how me what there is, ethically, in any religion that can't be duplicated by humanism. In other words, can you name me a single moral action performed or moral statement uttered by a person of faith that couldn't be just as well pronounced or undertaken by a civilian?

Logic tells me he's right. What do others think? Do we need a god in our lives to behave with integrity?

Tweet me @georgerede


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