Saturday, December 25, 2010

As We Celebrate Christmas...

Many moons ago, my mother insisted that instead of sitting at home on Christmas Day, we volunteer at our local soup kitchen in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Naturally I didn't want to do it...I was a teenager and wanted to do anything but what my parents wanted. So with as much attitude as my father would allow, I begrudgingly put on dressier clothes to get this chore over with.

That Christmas gave me the lesson of a lifetime.

As my mom and dad helped prepare the turkey, stuffing, vegetables, sweet potatoes, hot soup and pumpkin pie, I played "waiter" to the hundreds of people pouring in. What shocked me was who came for a free meal. Entire families were coming to us for Christmas Dinner...and many of them were my high school classmates! Seeing them in the hallways of Lebanon High I would have never guessed they were in need. Intuitively I knew they were embarrassed to see me there, yet I greeted them cheerfully letting them know we are all here for a great time. Many hung their heads in shame.

In The United States, we like to pretend there is no such thing as a caste system...but there it was right in front of me. My illusion was shattered. Secondly, we have an unspoken rule here that if you have money you are somehow a "get it." If not, you fall into the category of loser...and people treat you differently. Try going into a hospital without insurance. Oh you may be served eventually, but you WILL be treated like a leper. Anyone remember their Bible stories about compassion?

Have we forgotten what this time of year is really about? The ability to buy one gift after another? Or is this time of year - this year especially - about rekindling our hopes, dreams and love for out fellow human beings? Total strangers in need of our kindness instead of our judgments?

This time of year has always been about that feeling in the air...not the gifts under the tree. The goodness in our fellow human beings that could be felt on every street corner. Whether you were a Christian or not, people suspended their attitudes as the streets filled with a ringing bell, shoppers and our kitchens filled with aromas from Christmas past. But not this year.  This year is different.

This year is filled with confusion as people all over
the world begin to question the direction
our leadership has chosen.

We must face facts: Poverty is not declining, it is increasing. Unemployment is on the rise. Pensions are failing. And if you dare fly, you could get beaten and arrested...all because you have a tiny bottle of saline solution for your contact lenses. And here we are again in the middle of a Depression. How could this happen again?

Maybe it's time to get back to our roots. Christmas isn't about buying gifts. This time of year is about turning to family, friends and loved ones to show them how much we care. This time of year is about forgiveness...and remembering that despite the chipper facade, many are struggling with depression and poverty.

Time for us to reawaken and remember our true ancestry. We are not Christians, Muslims, Hindu's and Jews. We are people. It is not religion that binds us, but our love for each other. Something buried for some time. Time to celebrate what we have in common.

In director John Pritchard's new film Reawaken, he touches on a few keys for us to reclaim our humanity...and our sanity in this mixed up world. Open your heart, open your mind...

Go to to register for a showing near you.

The head without the heart is nothing. 

A friend of mine died this week. When I was a kid, he was a mentor and the coolest adult I had ever met. I looked back and give thanks for knowing him. He was one of those people on my journey that made a difference in my life.

Call a friend you have been holding a grudge against. Invite a lost family member over for dinner. Take a moment to take a plate of food to that neighbor who lives alone.

....and remember, be kind to each other.

Thank you once again for reading.

Brad Szollose

PS: If you wish to volunteer, find a Soup Kitchen near may be surprised to see a golf buddy on line with his children.

Here's one in NYC...

The New York City Coalition Against Hunger