We live in troubling times. I think we have always lived in troubling times, but we have poor memories of that.
I would like to share with readers my first essay that I wrote almost 50 years ago. Times were troubled then, back in the ’60s. We had the buildup of Vietnam, race riots in many cities, a growing gap between generations and a recent assassination of our president, with more to follow.
It was trying times. I was a young GI at the time, stationed in Korea for my first Christmas away from home. This is not a polished paper, but it was the first time I wrote from my heart and not my head. I hope it gives some perspective on our times.
Written Dec. 23, 1966, at Camp Casey, Korea, while watching a 9-year-old seeing her first Christmas tree:
What is Christmas? Home to most of us. But we are not home. For most of us, this is the first time away for the holidays. Will it be the same — can it be? Why shouldn’t it be? Isn’t the world one brotherhood in the eyes of the Lord whose birthday we celebrate? People everywhere enjoy the happiness of this holiday, but are they truly happy, or has alcohol and a full belly dulled them into a false sense of fulfillment? This is a time to extend a hand of friendship and love. These first and the material things will follow. Too many times, love is determined by the expense of the gift.
I sit here 10,000 miles from my home, still I am happy for I am doing something unfamiliar to me and many Americans. That is, helping someone I barely even know to have a merry Christmas. I am not looking for a pat on the back. I get that every time this poor girl smiles her shy thanks for a small gift. A pair of mittens for cold hands, hands that are blistered and raw from overexposure to the bitter and biting frost. This happens because she spends each night trying to sell peanuts for a few cents to GIs. Some of these GIs (our ambassadors of good will to the world?) drunkenly push her aside or shoo her away with the language of the fools they are.
Remember Christmas when you were 9? Pretty great — coming down on Christmas morning and finding packages neatly wrapped and stacked under your tree, supposedly by St. Nick. Try imagining waking on that same morning and wondering if you will have anything to eat that day. Christmas is not very merry on an empty stomach.
Peace on Earth and good will to man, and that man is not spelled A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N! It is all men and women, whether white, black, yellow, Jewish, Christian or what have you throughout the world. Christmas should not be the only time for peace, but it appears the only way to get a cease fire.
People are born to love and taught to hate. A child untaught in the ways of hate is the only one who can truthfully celebrate Christmas. So merry Christmas you children of the world, and may you be able to enjoy a love-filled, and hate-free Christmas for the rest of our poor world.
Columbus retiree Tom Lane is a community columnist and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. He served as a consultant to a number of companies in his career. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.