Thursday, 18 December 2008

the spirit of christmas: a vignette

Like many atheists I don't get really excited about this time of year.
I'm not curmudgeonly about it.
I love sharing the happiness of kids.
I enjoy catching up with mates for a drink and a good rant and some special food.
I even look forward to seeing the odd relative. (I have plenty of those.)
And let's face it, after a few drugs of choice, some of those hymns and homilies can sound pretty damn good.

Yet it's difficult to seriously embrace superstitious behaviour … and harder still condone full-tilt consumption! … when these two factors, among several others, contribute to the deprivation experienced by billions of my neighbours - and ongoing damage to my planet.

Here's a little reality check which helped put my personal 'festive' season in perspective.
I picked up a hitchhiker today: a male, maybe late thirties to early forties.
During the three or four minutes we spent together, I learnt that a bare fortnight ago he had separated from his wife of 18 years.
Upon his return from an extended visit to relatives in the UK she pulled the pin.
He lost his family, his house, his car.
At some stage he had lost his business.
He was living between caravan parks and trying to pull the strands of his life back together.
He was friendly. He joked a bit. He even patted my car … something no one else has done (aside from me) since I owned it.

I'll probably never know his real story. I'll certainly never know his wife's side of the story.
But I felt incredibly empty inside when I dropped him off at the bus stop.
I'll admit that I wished him a good christmas.
And he reciprocated.

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