December 20, 2013

Publisher's Notebook: Searching for the Christmas spirit

By Willie Sawyers

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Sometimes it’s difficult getting into the Christmas spirit with our busy lives, all the shopping and crass commercialization, the family gatherings and the acute lack of snow. Sometimes the Grinch is with us right through the holiday.

My life is so busy. I am now responsible for six newspapers and about 150 employees. I’ve been poring over budgets and strategic plans for 2014. December is history. My thoughts are well into the new year.

Many of my friends have or will retire soon, after working 30 years in their professions. I’ve been working 35 years, but my retirement will have to wait, until about five years after I’m dead based on my current financial holdings. But I don’t really envy my friends that get up each morning with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I like being busy.

Combine my job requirements with my five, soon to be six, grandkids and life sometimes can get real hectic. It’s speeding by like a train. It seems like I’ve lost a few years somewhere. I’m sure I’m not alone feeling this way.

So, it’s hard sometimes to slow down and revel in the Christmas spirit that has flowed into us in year’s past. We know the way we should feel, and all that we should appreciate. It’s just slow in coming sometimes.

But always, there comes a moment each Christmas when the holiday spirit hits me and I grasp the true meaning of the season. The moment comes unexpectedly.

It has hit at an American Legion toy giveaway where a young girl, without a coat and other proper clothing, eagerly awaited Santa Claus outside in the cold and snow. Then, the joy she showed when she got her gift warmed my busy, Grinch heart. Thinking about that young girl still moves me years later.

The Christmas spirit has hit me sitting on a bale of hay, drinking hot chocolate on a crisp night while listening to Christmas carols echo off the buildings in downtown London.

It has come to me while watching or participating in Christmas specials at church, where special songs and messages direct us to the true meaning of the season—the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ.

This year, despite all the budgets and the deadlines and the extra responsibilities, the spirit touched me Friday night at the Christmas on Main parade. It was a special moment, with an excited grandchild hoisted on my shoulders as we watched the lighted floats and Santa Claus parade by on a crisp, clear night. Seeing Christmas through the eyes of a young child is a good way to catch the holiday spirit.

I got a little emotional Tuesday night while taking out the garbage, of all things. It takes me awhile to take out all our garbage because, even with just two people in the house, we generate more garbage than a hospital. Sometimes it feels like I’m dragging a couple of dead bodies to the curb inside our garbage cans.

I paused outside for a moment and looked up into the sky and saw a perfect full moon. The air was crisp. The stars were twinkling, outshone just a little by the Christmas lights on the neighbor’s house. At that moment, I marveled at scene above me and felt a closeness to God. Great tidings of comfort and joy swept over me.

The spirit of Christmas is waiting for us if we just learn to be still and look for it in unsuspecting places.

Merry Christmas!