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CARMICHAEL: Reflections on what truly counts

It’s 9 a.m. on New Year’s Day as I write this column. Gone are the remnants of Christmas.

I live alone now, so although I treasure more than 40 years of memories of Christmases with my children and grandchildren, there is no tree to take down, nor decorations to pack away.

I remember well the children excitedly tearing open brightly-wrapped packages and tossing aside weeks of preparation and anticipation in a matter of minutes.

In those days, knowing in just one week bills would begin to fill the mailbox and the new year would come sliding down a mountain of fresh debt was a realization that stung my face as bitterly as the winter wind.

So here we are. Another January, another decade.

In my now 69 years, I have learned valuable lessons from the Christmases past that I’d like to share with you as we head into 2020.

I won’t tell you it’s been easy letting go of the tradition of shopping for weeks for just the perfect gifts for all those I love, but I now know no matter how much I would like to shower my children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren with the same over-abundance of gifts as before, they would be overwhelmed and unable to absorb and appreciate it all.

By the time they return to school next week, they will struggle to recall most of the gifts they received in order to write the annual “What I Did Over Christmas Break” theme.

The satisfaction of knowing no new credit card statements will be arriving this month is far more rewarding than the two minutes it takes someone to unwrap a gift and relegate it to the back of the closet.

I now know what everyone will remember about the Christmas of 2019 is the warmth of the love of family that surrounded them on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 

When the next generation has children of their own, they will choose to emulate traditions that made them feel safe and loved.

They won’t remember how many packages they opened, nor what was inside them.

They will carefully unwrap ornaments that have been handed down for generations and place them lovingly on their tree.

They will prepare dishes for their Christmas dinner, using stained recipe cards handwritten by mother and grandmother.

They will read poems and stories to their own children from a tattered book with the same inflections as when Mom and Dad read them before tucking them into bed on Christmas Eve.

As we begin this new decade, let us resolve to remember what’s most important, not only at Christmastime in 2020 but throughout this fresh new year and new decade.

Remember and learn from the past.

It’s family and friends who make each day worth living.

Rejoice in just being with them throughout the year and make each day count.

Think before you speak. Ask yourself if what you have to say will improve someone’s day in some way.

Stop before saying things that are negative or hurtful to others.

Spread peace and joy every day, not just at Christmas.

Instead of gifts, give of yourself to those less fortunate. Give someone a hand up, not a handout.

I wish you health and happiness to each of you and those you love in 2020.

Happy New Year.