Newsline , Society

Season for Gratitude

Posted on Friday, December 22, 2023
by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
Christmas tree decorations for a holiday wish or blessing

Sometimes, it is good to just stop, think, and have some gratitude. Snow comes in flakes, not barrels. Rain falls in drops, not buckets. Leaves fall one by one, not all at once.  Man thinks he is in charge, and calls every shot, but he does not. We control less than we think, and in this season, that is worth a nod and a wink.   

Why do we fall victim to this lofty idea, this deception, that we are in charge? Why do we think we can redefine physics and biology, rewrite history, chronology, replace God with mythology, claim to ourselves the power to hang the stars, make night and day, define our hour, and have our way?

Because are human, that is why. Our history is filled with vision and blindness, the miracle, marvel, and madness of being human, one day all heart and soul, depth and beauty, able to do so much, help each other, the next awash in envy and enmity, smallness, jealousies, modeling the jerk at home and work.

On any given day, in any given year, God can reduce us to carbon and water, remind us we are nothing without Him, humility, and gratitude, the real stuff of which goodness is composed.

He can take us from the mountain top or forest glade to the valley bottom, sun to shade, or reverse it all, and come to our aid.

We worry, waste, and bumble, forget our purpose, and often stumble. Here we are again, closing out another year, feuding among ourselves about useless, trivial things, wasting the gift of life and time, this season of rebirth, of peace on earth.

Maybe it is just the season, joy and Christmas, a chance to think about what we can do, who to help in what way, that seems to grow in proportion to the shortness of the day. 

I am reminded, as this year wraps up and another begins, of poet John Greenleaf Whittier, born more than 200 years ago, and how he reckoned with life’s opportunities, prompting actions with well-placed words.

One of his most resonant poems, “Maud Muller,” reminds us to keep our eyes open for the possible, and focus on the action between dawns and sunsets, so we have no regrets.

In that poem, a farm girl meets a city judge, both imagining a future, yet neither speaks or acts, which is to say – in a broader way – their chance came and waned.

His last verse is telling, and you may recall it. Beyond the context, it symbolizes the idea that we are given limited time to do what we can, make a difference, lift the lantern a bit higher, strain to see a bit further, and leave some lasting mark.

Whittier wrote: “For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘it might have been.’” Whittier also had brighter moments, heroes like poet Robert Burns.

And what did Burns write for the season, reminding us to celebrate faith and friendship? Well, he was a Scot, born in 1759, loved America before we were a nation, and sympathized greatly with our Revolution.

He also wrote a lyrical piece we remember this time of year, one that reminds us to appreciate our blessings, God’s role at year’s end, and to remember friends. He wrote “Auld Lang Syne,” or “Old Long Since,” a tip of hat and glass to “good old times.” 

That song is filled with irony, the need for action and reflection, looking back and ahead, and the humility of realizing we are in charge of little, yet can affect many.

Neither Whittier nor Burns could have imagined affecting so many, so much action and reflection. Sometimes, it is good to just stop and think, and have some gratitude. After all, snow falls in flakes, not barrels, rain in drops, not buckets, leaves in ones, not tons. In this season, we are luckier than we think, worth a nod and a wink.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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4 months ago

What a perfect message for all of us on the “eve” of such a special and spiritual holiday event. Thank you, Robert! Even during such tumultuous times we have so much to be grateful for – family, roaring fires on a cold night, the smile of a special friend, a hug….Let’s all take time throughout the new year to have “no regrets” or “it might have been”. As John F. Kennedy said, “ We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” Let’s celebrate what we do have and thank the spirit within us for our strength, kindness, faith, hope and the joy from being a part of such a beautiful natural world. Let’s put our anger and frustrations to bed for a much needed break. May you all have a safe and joyful holiday.
”Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” Maya Angelou

Duluth Tom
Duluth Tom
4 months ago

Well done Mr Charles. God bless us all! Merry Christmas….

4 months ago

Merry Christmas RBC, your article warmed my heart and I shared it with Family and Freinds because you’re correct, Gratitude is in too short a supply nowadays.
Thank You

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
3 months ago

Very thoughtful writing on Gratitude Robert, I do believe there is a great reverence that is in the acknowledgement the God provided guidance, help in our lives ,at times in major ways , at times with just basic decision making ,but guidance to clear thinking. However commonplace or significant the situation having God aiding us with thoughts of courage, strength of character, wisdom and understanding is what to be grateful for. The appreciation of truth, the appreciation of joy , for having a sense of purpose. Gratitude – something to think of with reverence .

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
4 months ago

Why does every holiday, even religiously based ones, involve buying something? I’m spending each month for necessities like food, electricity, and gas as much as I have coming in so, if I have to be “grateful”, I guess it’s that I’m not spending MORE than I take in and there aren’t more “mandated” reasons to consumer spend!

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