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I’m not really in the Christmas spirit. And sadly I feel like that’s an insult to the memories of my family members lost. They were full of life and happiness, and they enjoyed the holidays with family. This is especially true of my grandmother, who passed away three years ago on Christmas Day. I think this really was her favorite day of the year. Nothing made her happier than sitting in the living room, surrounded by family with children opening presents. Both she and my aunt valued family above all, and they would have cherished this time to be with those they loved.

I do cherish this time, and I’m so thankful to be with my family. But I don’t feel the joy I usually feel this time of year. I feel kind of empty. At least I have a big, gaping hole somewhere that I can’t fill up with Christmas songs and giving gifts and eating everything in sight (though I’ve tried).

Yeah, this is whining. And it reeks of self-pity. But I know a lot of people feel this way around the holidays for a variety of reasons, many of them in far less comfortable situations than I, and sometimes people just expect them to be a part of the cheer. Or worse, they just get ignored.

So many instances of violence, destruction, and hate have caused heartache everywhere this year. And there are people out there hurting. Ashamedly, during past holidays I very often have done the easy thing, turning a blind eye to the overwhelming suffering so I could enjoy my family’s holiday celebrations without guilt. We all do it, all the time. If we weren’t somewhat desensitized, we wouldn’t be able to live our lives. Good or bad, I think that’s the truth.

But man, what a shitty time for us to go into self-preservation mode. This can be the hardest time of year for people going through crises and dealing with grief and despair. That’s why programs that help people through the holidays are so particularly important. Alongside that, perhaps just as important is everyone taking the time to pay attention today, this week, this month. Listen and acknowledge. Let’s recognize what is happening to our fellow humans. Let’s listen when folks tell us they’re experiencing violence or discrimination. Let’s listen when we see anger and pain; let’s remember we don’t always see everything and we don’t always know someone else’s troubles in life.

Let’s not pass judgment but hear people out. Let’s be patient and seek first to understand. Let’s remember that people grow up in different places with different privileges because of who they are, and let’s resolve to change this inequality. Let us do this always, but especially right now, when it is so easy to do otherwise and so hurtful to our world when we do.

And specifically to those celebrating Christmas today: I know a lot of really great Christians who do some really cool things. I’m glad to know y’all. Let’s push that pursuit of Christlike love and  understanding to its ultimate purpose/ not here for the rich or for the privileged, but here to expose injustice, push for equality, and destroy a system that oppresses our fellow humans.

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