It's been a grim week. Hearts are heavy with the mass shooting of children, with the sudden death of poet Jake Adam York, and with a strain of flu that has hit unusually hard this winter. In all this, the thread of thankfulness that stitches the season with hope and joy feels rather thin and tenuous.
And still, it is Christmas. We have our symbols, our traditions, our touchstones. For me, it's Silent Night. I'm not sentimental but that song tears me up. Usually, it hits me while I'm driving alone at night along a quiet road. A distant radio station plays a static version of Silent Night, and I am overcome with a melancholy ache.
Sometimes I am among others, in a crowd, when the song flattens me — while mumble-singing at church, or while buying milk at the market.
It's a lonely sort of lump-in-the-throat.
Once, I broke down at the Dollar Store. I was ambling down the aisles of cheap plastic baubles when Silent Night played over the din of harried shoppers. Overwhelmed with the season, I rushed from the store holding back a sob.
The other night, at Seashore Family Literacy, a small group of youngsters offered an impromptu concert to a mix of proud parents and restless siblings. Beaming and happy, the children belted out their favorites and valiantly mumbled through tougher terrain. All the while, their joy, their effort, was contagious. When the earnest young ones sang Silent Night, I was lifted from my state of ache and moved to good cheer.
Thank you Seashore singers for allowing Christmas spirit to trump a string of dark days.
It's Thankful Thursday, a weekly pause to appreciate people, places, things and more. Joy contracts and expands in proportion to our gratitude. What makes your world expand? What are you thankful for today?