By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
With another Halloween under our belt and the election tomorrow, now it becomes time to focus on the next holiday — Christmas.
Christmas marks the season of giving, the celebration that originated from God’s gift to humanity— His son Jesus, who sacrificed His life to redeem our faults and to serve as an example of how to live a wholesome life.
But wait — there are two other holidays that fall between now and the late December. On November 11, we honor our veterans through Veteran’s Day, although locally, celebrations have already been marked. Saturday was the second annual Veteran’s Day Parade, an occasion set by current Laurel County Judge Executive David Westerfield and supported by city and county officials. The “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans” parade in 2010 was one that will, undoubtedly, be hard to surpass. While last year’s parade did not reach that extent, it was indeed a sacred time to honor those who served their country, as was this year’s.
Another holiday that is often pushed aside for the Christmas rush is Thanksgiving Day. Though the “official” Christmas shopping season begins the day after Thanksgiving. Christmas items were on store shelves before Halloween drew near. While merchandising in a downed economy necessitates pre-season displays, I must agree with my son-in-law, Will Dearner, who became frustrated when he tried unsuccessfully to buy a pumpkin a week before Halloween at a local store and was instead nearly swamped by Christ-mas trees.
Holidays have been major markets for retailers, with everything from trinkets and jewelry to massive home and yard displays. The commercialism of our society today detracts from the true purpose of the holiday season.
Thanksgiving seems to have faded into the sunset while Christmas steps up to the forefront of the fall celebrations. Thanksgiving is the first true American holiday. It was set aside to remember the struggles of the early settlers and to bask in the harvest of their crops. Settlers and Native Americans joined together to give thanks to God for their bounty, without prejudice, without judgment, without hesitation to recognize and rejoice in the blessings from a higher being to which their harvest was undoubtedly due.
What a shame that this meaningful holiday has evolved to little more than a big meal, afternoon and evening football games, and a four-day weekend for many.
With the many problems in today’s society, it is understandable that being thankful is often difficult. Families who work every day and are still struggling to keep bills paid are challenged to find good during hard times. Children who have inadequate clothing and food during cold, winter months may not see the joy of either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Parents who have traded their parenthood for the thrill of drugs cannot see the harm they inflict not only upon themselves, but on those who love and care for them. Persons faced with terminal illnesses of family and friends, or even themselves, may find little cause to smile or celebrate.
Though finding a reason to be thankful is often near-impossible, it only takes a minute of watching the local and national news broadcasts to find reasons to be thankful. With the onslaught of Super Storm Sandy, we here in the immediate area can take comfort in having heat and electricity -- an often taken for granted commodity currently not available to millions of people in New Jersey, New York, and even Maryland. We can be thankful our personal belongings haven’t been washed away to sea. The many lives lost in the disaster left hearts broken all along the eastern seaboard and beyond.
Residents in the local area well acquainted with the challenge of recovering after a natural disaster. Families in the area are still pulling together the pieces of their lives that were strewed across the northern section of our county just eight months ago.
It is times such as these that seeing our own blessings become easier. Regardless when life kicks the wind out of us, we can look around and find hundreds of others in worse conditions. We must learn to appreciate the present and cherish the past, look to the future and be thankful for the opportunity to try again.