The Meaning of Cheer

At this time, as the holidays approach and the days are at their shortest, almost everyone is feeling somehow battered by economic fallout.

It’s not just the big construction jobs coming to a halt or the school eliminating teaching positions. It’s house cleaners finding their jobs cut back, from weekly to fortnightly. It’s cottage realtors abandoning the chase. It’s the gas company that once had nine repairmen on the roster now relying on just two to cover all the after-hours emergencies. It’s the applicant for a part-time town administrative job up-Island finding scores of others have picked up the form before her. It’s the down-Island cafe where recently both the person buying the cup of fresh-brewed and the person serving it exchanged commiserations; both were being laid off, and it was their last day of work. Cheers indeed.

Yet there is something unseen about at this time too. Amid the anxiety is a prevailing kindness in the community, a sense of shared understanding that extends from that cafe counter and many others. You can hear people reminding each other to breathe; we just have to get through these few months, they say, leaving unsaid the last and most important word: together.

This aspect of the Island community is a lot like that character about whom the most famous newspaper editorial of all was written: “Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.

“He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

Don’t worry so much about the presents you can’t afford. More than ever, your friends and family will appreciate what’s unseen.