Many people see Christmas as a season of faith. Many see it as a season for gifts. We prefer to see it as a time for hope.
Christmas, in our opinion, should be a period for renewal. And, the greatest gift that can be granted for renewal at this time of year is hope.
We live in trying times and in a troubled world. No matter whether one is in the one percent or 99 percent, young or old, in the United States or somewhere else around the globe, virtually no one is immune to the stressors placed upon us in this modern era.
Here in the United States they and other factors are causing citizens to lose faith in our dominant institutions and in some of our core beliefs regarding the nation and the American dream. When faith departs, hope is the only thing left to sustain us.
The diminishment of hope can affect anyone no matter creed, color, gender or age. But, the loss of hope is especially troublesome when it impacts children.
That is true because hope starts with the children. When each new child is born hope is renewed. No matter one’s religious preference, the birth of the baby Jesus can be seen as a sign of hope.
This year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize to “two champions of children” Malaya Yousafzai, a Muslim from Pakistan, and Kailash Satyarthi, a Hindu from India, signals that caring for and nurturing hope in the young is non-denominational or territorial.
Still, there are places in which hope for children is being extinguished or strained — in some cases deliberately, in others not.
No matter the intent, the consequence is the same. It makes the world a crueler place.
Sometimes the cruelty is evident. Witness: The recent massacre of the 132 children by the Taliban in Pakistan; the kidnapping in April of 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria by the Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram; the thousands of homeless children displaced from Syria; the thousands of children in West Africa dying from the ebola virus; and the Newtown Connecticut schoolhouse shootings of 20 children in the Christmas season of 2012.
Other times the cruelty is subtle. It is the plight of poor children in poor neighborhoods here in the United States who start their lives at a disadvantage and because of factors such as inadequate school funding and family support services have that disadvantage increase over time.
Cruelty can be even more subtle. It is the more affluent parents who unintentionally deprive their children of childhood at too early an age by providing too much structure and control over their activities.
In spite of the many incidents and accidents that conspire against hope for many children, hope floats. It is buoyed by those who remain hopeful and commit to keeping hope alive for those children in dim or dire circumstances no matter what the cause.
They believe in the power of hope. Choruses from two songs with which we are familiar express the strength of that belief.
The first of a religious nature says:
Let’s take the hope of Christ
Lift it up and hold it high
Because hope changes everything
Let’s take this faith we wear
To hurting people everywhere
Because hope changes everything
No matter how dark or troubled
Someone’s life may seem
I do believe with all my heart
That hope changes everything
The second of a spiritual nature says:
Oh, hear the banjo ring
Hear the people sing
Hope changes everything
Sing people sing
These are compelling expressions about the necessity for hope but may overstate its potential somewhat. Nonetheless, while hope by itself may not change everything, without hope no change is possible.
Hope is the bedrock and platform upon which those actions which bring about change can be built. So, in this Christmas season of 2014, our wish and prayer for those men and women of goodwill in the United States and around the world who want to make this planet a better place for the children is Keep Hope Alive.
We expressed a similar sentiment in our Christmas blog in 2012 when we wrote,
More than 2000 years ago a child was born in a manger in Bethlehem and brought hope to the world. Let us hope that the needless deaths and wanton slaughter of 20 children in Newton, Conn, will bring sanity to our nation and its gun policies. We owe that to them and to all of our children.
That was our Christmas wish and prayer then. Our desire at that time was that we would not have to repeat it again.
We must and we will. Just as we will repeat our wish and prayer of this year again and again as long as conditions demand it and there is work that must be done to keep hope alive for the children.