A time to reflect on the state of the world

The arrival of Christmas is always preceded by the dramatic change of winter’s flesh: snowflakes nestle quietly and closely together, cloaking the horizon in an alien skin that glistens and sparkles, cushioning the crisp air like an atmospheric ear muff.
Everything seems to slow down during this season, as the world shrinks from the broadness of warmer landscapes to the careful avoidance of colder temperatures in enclosed homes, cars and workspaces. In this way, winter is a very intimate period – feelings of internal warmth while drinking hot tea and quivers of excitement during friendly communication are intensely experienced, rather than mere backdrops to everyday hustle-bustle.
While this environment can bring great joy and comfort to many, it can also bring increasing sadness to others. A missing face at a table due to a son or daughter moving out of province may seem amplified by the closeness of Christmas meals; the absent laughter of a loved one who has passed can seem like an deafening silence; the solitude of a Christmas alone can feel overwhelmingly heavy and cold.
For some, Christmas is a reminder of what they possess that others do not. Those directly affected by Typhoon Haiyan – whether living through it or knowing friends and relatives in the affected areas – are met with a Christmas dilemma, knowing that they have the comfort of circumstance that cannot be known by the survivors of this terrible storm.
While many Canadians snuggle up by a warm fire at night, survivors of the typhoon gather in makeshift shelters and abandoned buildings to thwart the impending darkness; nestling together for the security of numbers to inhibit potential assault.  Their days are built not with rest and easy communication, but with the labourious and exhaustive process of clearing, rebuilding and healing.
Rather than spending time in the quiet reflective nature of the holidays, the survivors of the typhoon must live from moment to moment, their minds continually occupied by basic matters of food, water and shelter for survival. While most in Alberta head to bed for warmth and sleep, nighttime in areas affected by the storm is an ominous darkness that brings worry, fear and danger.
These passages can describe many populations existing in the world today who do not have the basic comforts of living that many Canadians are lucky to have. It can also describe many Canadians living below the poverty line, those without homes and a myriad of others in unstable circumstances right on our soil.
It is important to recall the many faces of humanity while basking in the cozy, safe atmosphere of the holidays. That many of us live in a world where calendar days are set aside to appreciate family, friends and self is truly quite remarkable.
Canadians, and indeed rural populations, are immensely lucky to have such an open and quiet interval to celebrate the subtle wonders and joys of living.
So this Christmas, put aside any ill-will or anger and simply appreciate this life. Appreciate the beautiful colour of the crystal-blue sky and the smell of clean, crisp air. Appreciate that quirky uncle’s sense of humour and the innocent eyes of a new niece. Appreciate the fact that you can actually choose love over hate.
We are so lucky to be alive, and if anything, we should absolutely appreciate this.

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