I’ve been struggling of late, as have many, many other people, to feel the joy this time of year usually brings. I found the “Christmas spirit” from the experience of opening “White Christmas” at our community playhouse, but that was tempered by the discovery of the bodies of two beautiful little girls in cold, remote woods, and now by the horror of Sandy Hook.
These events overwhelmed me as I cannot help but think of families whose hearts have been shattered by unimaginable grief…just before Christmas. As a father, I find myself trying to comprehend what I simply cannot, and I feel ruminations of selfishness whenever holiday joy enters my heart.
We can find some solace in the fact that conversations about our children, gun control, mental health, the nobility of teachers and first responders, have dominated our dialogues and are kindling action. Even though there is, as always, anger, from all sides of every issue, I believe we have reached a Critical Mass of Concern and we are all, at least, standing on some common ground in a universal desire to create a safer world for our children.
Perhaps, that can be the “Christmas” message that we need right now.
I’m not referring to the “Christmas season” as a faith-specific or exclusionary term, but rather the spirit it represents that all people can embrace: Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward All, Love and Understanding, Generosity and Compassion, to Heal, and to Forgive.
In a life long quest to keep inspiration close by, I’ve accumulated quotes that I stuff into a drawer (well…a computer file) to draw upon when I am searching for just that. I’d like to offer a few of them:
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” -Mahatma Gandhi
“The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.” -Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy
“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” -Thurgood Marshall
“We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race. We all share the same basic values.” -Kofi Atta Annan
“A man may learn wisdom even from a foe.” -Aristophanes
Even though such quotes are, in a sense, vague, and do not outline a direct course of “action” they can elevate the spirit into hope and create a personal resolve. I have a dear friend, who sadly passed away a few years ago, and something he used to say to me has been on my mind lately in that very regard.
He was a dashing, British actor named Peter Dennis who was delightfully full of himself, as only British folk can pull off with graceful aplomb. He had this valediction that I thought was…just too British. In those circumstances where most of us say, “Goodbye!” or “See ya later!” Peter would say, “May Blessings upon thee fall.”
I met Peter in 1990 when he appeared with me in “A Man Called Sarge” (a classic that you can find on Netflix…by all means order it so that I might receive 25 cents in residuals). He brilliantly played British Field Marshal Montgomery and we remained friends from having made the film in Israel to Los Angeles where he stayed with me during “Audition Season.”
I loved Peter, who also traveled the world with his one man realization of the stories of “Winnie the Pooh.” It was, and remains, the only interpretation ever to be “blessed” by the Milne estate, and my first son, Christopher, is named after the namesake of those stories. In fact, I painted both of my son’s nurseries with scenes from Winnie the Pooh…but I digress…
So, as you can see, it didn’t take long to realize that Peter was a sincere man, and, in fact, could not be any other way if he tried. Peter’s “blessings” meant protection to all whom he came in contact with, and he sincerely wished for good fortune and glad tidings to be discovered by every single person, every single time they met.
Today, as I have been searching for my Christmas spirit, I have been surprising myself by hearing those words coming out of my mouth, in place of “See ya!” From these words I hope you sense sincerity, and perhaps, the inspiration of hope. To you, to Peter in whatever Heaven he has chosen, and to the world that surrounds us, I offer—-
MAY BLESSINGS UPON THEE FALL!