Please Exercise Your Compassion


I don’t know what it is about this time of year. We’re told that Christmas is, to quote my pal Charles Dickens, “a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

And with all of that ringing in our heads, it’s also the time when the hard-heartedness and meanness and cruelty of our species really seems to start working overtime.

I mean, I don’t care what your politics are, when you hear that someone’s shot up an elementary school and killed 20 first-graders, the right response is never to start whining that libruls are comin’ to take yore guuuuuuns, or that the real problem is that pretend guns in video games are the real killers. Seriously, if you’re ever tempted to do that, just keep your fool mouth shut. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the people who have really been wronged here — it’s not you, it’s the victims and their families, and no one wants to listen to gun-worshiping silliness at a time like that.

Heck, it’s not even the only symptom we’ve got of Christmastime cruelties. People want to cut off aid to the poor, they scream at waitresses and store clerks, they fume about every imagined slight, from the entirely mythical War on Christmas to big crowds at the malls. I know it’s not everyone — heck, it’s not even most people — but it sure seems like there’s more of it at this time of year.

My preference would be for people to be compassionate for those who are suffering or less fortunate all the time, but it particularly seems like they should try to be more empathetic around the holidays. I understand that it’s a stressful time, everyone wants everything to be perfect, and there’s enormous pressure on just about everyone — and sometimes folks just snap and let that stress come boiling out on someone else. But it happens too dang often, and it’s really, really messed up.

It’s not like I want everyone to go volunteer at soup kitchens. If that’s your thing, sure, go ahead — but it’s just not for everyone.

But fer cry-eye, be nicer to employees in stores and restaurants. They don’t get paid enough for doing nice things for you, so smile, thank ’em, and wish ’em a merry holiday. Be a bit less aggressive on the highways. Don’t be snippy with friends and family. Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes and remember that there’s pain out there greater than yours, no matter what some angry douche on the TV or radio tells you.

Do it for Christmas — and heck, do it every dang day you can — but be more compassionate, caring, and patient, okay? It’s good for all of us.

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