The holidays . . . that time of year when the whole world becomes enveloped in a celebratory mood, when joy, blessings, thanksgivings and glad tidings are the currency of everyday conversation and interaction. More than any other point on the calendar, this is the season when people seem to actively choose to be good, do right, play nice.
I know I’m not the first or last person to state this, but this is the one time of year when people become acutely aware of all they really have (in every since of the word)—this is, generally speaking, the ONE time of year when people give pause, adopt a new perspective, and channel it toward acts of generosity.
Now, I want to acknowledge that the point I’m making at this moment about this season of joy and gratitude could be easily countered with discussion of recent events in Ferguson and New York City, and in Syria and Iraq and other places around the world where strife is all we see. And I want to honor that fact, for there is no way around it. These days, we are not all rosy cheeks and wrapping paper. But all the things going on in the world right now—those things that feel contrary to the holidays—can remind us that the world is complicated… that it is a place where suffering on one end cannot be replaced by gift giving on another… and that’s true at any point in the year.
Right before Thanksgiving I saw a headline that caught my attention: “11 Times Pope Francis Got it Right.” The article does a nice job capturing some of the many ways Pope Francis has used his position to further issues of equality, environmentalism, social responsibility, and more. Since taking his place as the most notable living spiritual leader, Pope Francis has, as I wrote in The First Turning, “thrown down the proverbial gauntlet, not just to Catholics, but to the world in general.” He has surprised us with stances that rival those long-held by the Church, he has challenged us to look beyond ourselves to the needs of others, he has reminded us that the world is something we belong to rather than something we own.
I connected with the article’s celebration of Pope Francis as “Global Citizen” on every level. But, more than the list of his good acts, one of the things that most caught my attention reading this particular piece was the lack of timeline attached to the information. I’m not so naïve to think that the timing of its publish wasn’t intentional, capitalizing on the arrival of the holidays. But the post itself didn’t count down Pope Francis’s “greatest hits” of 2014. It didn’t date and timestamp each of the occurrences. And there’s a reason for that.
It is because Pope Francis, being the true First Turning player that he is, doesn’t attach dates and times to his global citizenship. It is something he lives at all times with utter intentionality.
I hope you can see that this is not a post disparaging the eagerness and ebullience with which we greet this time of year. Rather, it is a post about how we as a people can greet every time of year with that same generous spirit. How we can choose to adopt a giving mentality, non-judgmental stance and loving position throughout the days and weeks and months, and do so not because we’ll get to check off items on our wish list, but because it is quite simply the good, right, nice thing to do.
For Pope Francis, his ONE time of year is all year. What a precious gift that is! And one that is (all present faux pas aside) surely worth re-gifting.