Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
We’re in our Spring Fundraiser and you can help! Support KSMU programming today!

The Holiday Season Offers a Time of Reflection on What Unites Us All

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. This month, I was all set to launch a light-hearted episode about how this was the year when very nearly every story we hadn't heard the end of - ended. Bin Laden, the end. War in Iraq. Ended. The 12-thousand year old Mayan Calendar - zip. Even Khaddafi - Kaput.


It's gotten to where the news has to be gigantic in order to even make the paper. Or the broadcast. And I think most of us can probably do without any more news of epic proportions for a little while. Still, it would have made a great story. But then, when I least expected it, my consciousness was jogged by the unlikely and somewhat ludicrous sight of a tiny Smart car whizzing down the road in front of me, smartly adorned in reindeer antlers.


And it occurred to me it might be time to look into some notions that, although no less important, are somewhat less epic in nature. It is the holidays, after all. And on that subject, I was already trying to process two observations recently made by friends that have set my head to thinking. The first was a comment last week by a friend as a Christmas song played on the radio. "Every night when a child is born is a holy night," she said. And I had to admit it was true.


Then just this morning another friend posted on Facebook the suggestion that we replace the i in the word holiday with a y, making this a season full of holy days. Another true thing. The more I thought about it, the more holy days came to mind, and I started making a list. The day a daughter leaves for the battlefield. The day a son comes home. The night we say goodbye to a friend as well as the one when we say hello to a newborn. The evening a struggling student accepts a hard-earned diploma. The morning a brilliant co-worker accepts an award. Well, you see how it can just go on.


It also makes it difficult to assign the idea of holiness to just one set of beliefs, or group of believers. I mean, the whole notion of parking your holiday season right on the Solstice, when the darkest night passes in the northern hemisphere and the longest day begins in the south, means that we, as earthlings, celebrate the change in virtually every culture and every land, every language and creed. The Christmas tree, the Yule Log, the Hanukkah lights, all symbolize renewal, reaffirmation, resolve.


Given all that, it's also difficult to ignore the fact that there are far more things that unite us as humans than things that divide.

It also suggests that in addition to the large things that have happened, we may be on the verge of even larger opportunities. Consider the Arab Spring, followed by the American Autumn. People coming together in larger numbers and with fewer instances of violence than at any time I can recall. Are we nearing a point where we can actually begin to consider the issues that affect us all? Is it possible, here at the turning of the world, that we might decide to stop fighting over the small stuff, the spoils, the upper hand, and instead put our considerable energy as planetary neighbors into dealing with the big and universal challenges that lay ahead for us all, like climate change, world hunger, loss of arable land, the poisoning of the oceans, and yes, even the possibility of solar storms that have the potential to throw us iPhone and Android dependent sophisticates right back into the mechanical age. Might we stop talking about leveling the playing field and just do it. I'm not sure that's a game we're all eager to play. But it does tend to put things into proper perspective. We have discovered, or at least have become aware of the past decade, that, for instance, We don't need a war to prove that we all bleed the same color. We don't need to ruin things to discover what we can't do without. We don't need to suffer loss to know how our neighbors feel.


So about that calendar. What if, instead of signifying the end of the world, it means it's time to turn the page. Take up a new set of tools. Build a future that works better for everyone, not just those with the most toys. You might say it would take a miracle. But heck, we're no stranger to miracles. The very fact that this earth keeps spinning its wobbly way through space is miracle enough to share at this holy, star-filled moment and at every moment. No matter what damage we humans continue to inflict, it just keeps going round and round. Celebrate that along with the beliefs of your faith. It doesn't get any holier than this.


Here's wishing you and all our neighbors on this tiny speck of earth in the midst of a vast darkness, the holiest of holidays full of light and promise, whatever your tradition or your address.

Marideth is a Missouri storyteller, veteran journalist, teacher, author, musician and student of folklore focusing on stories relevant to Ozarks culture and history. Each month, she’s the voice behind "These Ozarks Hills.” Sisco spent 20 years as an investigative and environmental writer for the West Plains Quill and was well known for her gardening column, “Crosspatch,” on which her new book is based. Sisco was a music consultant and featured singer in the 2010 award-winning feature film “Winter's Bone.”