By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli
The holiday season is in full bloom. Our beautiful villages with Christmas lights and wreaths reminds us what this time of year is supposed to be about. We celebrate the holiday season across a landscape that is polarized and profoundly divisive.
Our recent midterm elections have made the powerful statement that Americans are tired of hearing about election steal lies. They are tired of conspiracy theories and rhetoric that is blatantly false and disgraceful.
The midterm elections have made a powerful statement that democracy is more powerful than autocracy; that we as a nation want to move forward and find new ways to collaborate with each other for the sake of all Americans.
As you prepare to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, I hope our faith leaders have the courage to stand up and speak for truth, for social justice and respect for all people no matter what their race, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic class.
Our silence, when it comes to serious life issues that impact all of us, is a statement of complicity. Shame on those of us who hold positions of religious leadership and remain silent. Shame on those who hold positions of religious leadership and fuel the hate and polarization that is paralyzing our nation.
However, despite this chaotic landscape I continue to remain exceptionally hopeful because I am blessed to see miracles and human transformation every day.
Every morning when I get up, I look out at our garden of remembrance. There are more than 120 crosses representing all the innocent lives that have been lost to overdose and addiction since the pandemic. They are from our community. They have mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters that live among us. I know these days are hard for their families. We must never forget but always remember their gift of life.
Human kindness continues to live on in our midst. Hopefully during this holiday season, it will become contagious. Recently a retired schoolteacher told me a powerful story. She was on line at Taco Bell in her car and her eyes met the eyes of a man in a red truck in front of her. It was just a momentary glance. When she got to the window to pay, the cashier told her there was no charge. The man in the red truck had covered her meal. Needless to say, she was overwhelmed.
The cashier gave her a note which I have permission to share with you: “To the person behind me in line, please accept this small act of kindness today as a reminder that all of us have bad days, but not all of us were fortunate enough to wake up this morning and have a day at all. No matter how hard it gets, keep going! You are stronger than your most difficult hour, and there are so many people supporting you even if you haven’t met them yet. Peace, love, tacos — a random stranger.”
As we celebrate the holiday season this year, let us reach out with random kindness to the strangers in our midst that could become our friends!
Father Francis Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.