I wanted to wish all my readers a happy and safe holidays: Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Joyeux Noel, Happy Kwanza, Happy Solstice, Eid al-Adha, Muharram, Happy New Year and Bonne Annee. If I missed one or two greetings, I apologize and offer you my best wishes of the season.
This time of the year is also when we tend to reflect a little more on our loved ones--present and not. My own mom and brother passed away this year, soon after my dad died, just a year before. My good friend Janos Novomezsky was killed by a drunk driver near Budapest late last year trying to help out an injured dog hit by another drunk driver (please drink and drive responsibly). I miss them all (and many other friends and relatives who have died), and I wish they were here to share these holidays. But I also think we need to focus on the love of those still in our lives, so I wish you a season of unselfish love, affection and caring--for those around you and those with whom we all share the world.
Don't worry about that annoying relative (or relatives), the decorations, the holiday dinner, or all those gifts and presents. Focus on what is really important and you will make it through the holidays a lot more stress-free. Our family now gives only one modest present (a "grab-bag" that is selected at random) to the adults. Instead we encourage each other to give to charity what would only be spent on presents to be returned in a department store later. Just an idea. And, if it is too late this year, you can always discuss it now, so that you can implement it next holiday season.
In this time of giving, please do not forget those less fortunate than you. We have had a year of disasters, continued terrorism, hooliganism and war, with all the many victims of these events in need of our help. Please use this opportunity to perhaps change your family's emphasis on consumerism to one of charity for others. Whether it be for the victims of the tsunami, hurricane Katrina, the Pakistani earthquake, the Iraq or Palestinian conflicts, the various African civil wars, AIDS and other diseases, or any of the other horrors visited upon the world's poor, we should find a place in our hearts (and our wallets) this season and next year for our fellow brothers and sisters.
National, religious and political affiliations aside, we need to find ways of coming together rather than resolving our differences with conflict. That approach always hurts the poor, the defenseless, the elderly and the very young. Ignorance and fanaticism have no place in a world where generosity, affection, inclusion and education govern our decisions and relations. After all, isn't this how we would and should react to members of our own family in need? And shouldn't all those who need our help be included in our extended family? We should be using our political vote and clout, pledging our personal support, time and money, and demanding accountability from our leaders, institutions and politicians--wherever in the world we are. We must stop squandering our resources on graft, greed, animosity, war and civil strife. And we should demand that our governments do the same.
Just one example: what if the American government had chosen to spend $300 billion (currently the cost to date of the Iraq War, excluding the more important cost of American and Iraqi lives) to resolve the Palestinian issue? Could we have developed a long-term counter to all the fanaticism that feeds on poverty and miseducation in this area of the world? How would that have changed the dynamics and the way America is viewed in the world? The problem, of course, was getting the Congress to approve of such aid. War seems to get approval all too easily and poverty abatement and education all too slowly. We need to change those kinds of decisions by our public support or lack thereof of the issues and the politicians who support them. I don't propose to have all the answers to world peace, but it would seem to me that such a massive reallocation of resources tied to results might have brought (and still may bring) about a more positive world.
By the way, this also applies to the rest of the world as well, so please don't sit there smugly if you are somewhere else in the world. Your politicians and institutions also need to be accountable for their actions (or non-action), and encouraged to make the world a better place. You too need to make a direct contribution to the poor, needy and defenseless.
Instead of focusing on the past, we must all work on what we can do individually and collectively in the future. I apologize for being so "preachy", but this time of year seems to do that to me. I just hope we can all maintain that sense of brotherly love for the entire year.
I want to wish all my readers and clients the very best holidays and New Year ever. Thank you for your kind patience with this writer this past year.