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Commentary: Christmas Commentary

By William Holston, KERA Commentary

Dallas, TX –

My wife Jill and I struggle to cut through the stress this busy season tends to produce and to actually celebrate the deeper meaning of the day. We've been married for over 24 years. Our kids are grown. We don't really need anything. So, we started looking for creative ways to celebrate Christmas that don't involve accumulating more stuff.

Each Christmas we adopt a family through a local non profit, Human Rights Initiative. The families are refugees to our country, fleeing persecution, threats and even torture. The agency sends us a wish list from the family and we go shopping for them. In order to protect the privacy of the families, I do not know their names or country of origin. The first year we did this, Our family consisted of two single men. They were pro democracy advocates from a country in Africa. One of the young Asylum applicant's list included a biography of an American political leader and a dress shirt, so he could look for a job. Among other gifts, we bought him a nice dress shirt and David McCullough's terrific biography of John Adams. This year our family is from Latin America and consists of a single mother and her three children. She was a victim of domestic violence and is seeking refuge under the Violence Against Women Act. We bought them books, games, children's toys and warm clothes. Jill and I had a great time shopping together for this family. When I mentioned this to a friend, he handed me cash which we used to buy a grocery gift card. It's nice to see others take part with us.

Last year, we added to our Christmas tradition. For friends and family, we bought animals for families in third world countries through the non-profits, Heiffer International and World Vision. We buy an animal such as a goat, sheep, chicken or a duck in honor of our loved ones. A needy family now has a sustainable source of milk or eggs, so it really is a gift that keeps on giving. And our friends are honored at the same time.

In addition, I write a short story each Christmas and send it to my friends and colleagues. And I write a poem for my wife, which celebrates the events of the previous year. It's not high art, but she tells me she likes it. Maybe that's her gift to me.

I realize that not everyone shares the Christian beliefs of our family. For them, Christmas is more of a good natured time of generosity. Although it is nice when my non- Christian friends or even strangers extend Christmas greetings to me, I don't expect or demand that. It's not what the holiday is for.

In this Country we have a choice of how or even whether we celebrate Christmas. We can choose to greet each other in peace, or we can use this as another opportunity to argue. Canadian folk singer Bruce Cockburn sings of Christmas that:

"And the message is clear if you've got ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
It's a Christmas gift you don't have to buy
There's a future shining in a baby's eyes"

In our small way, my wife and I are celebrating that idea. Merry Christmas.

William Holston is an attorney from Dallas.

If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.