Call It By Name: Genocide

I am writing this with the hope that on April 24th a universal sigh of relief will reverberate throughout the Diaspora of Armenians and throughout what little homeland we have left. I am writing this with a hollow feeling because as an American I want to trust the moral rightness on which this country was founded based on the principles of justice for civil and human rights. I am writing this with the yearning that on April 24, America will have the courage to stand on the right side of history and recognize the atrocities of 1915 calling it by its name: Genocide.

I know that justice is not an object to have, but often a difficult journey to undertake. We saw that most recently, when a sigh of relief was heard nationwide after weeks of nervous anticipation at the momentous decision in the Derik Chauvin trial when the verdict was announced guilty on all three counts. The guilty verdict was as cathartic and dramatic as a cleansing purge that occurs which releases the painful emotions of an injustice that is made right with truth. Will this bring in a new age where we can confidently speak the truth– that Black Lives Matter — as we strive for equality before the law and affirm our inherent core values and respect our civil rights? I hope so.  Because I believe this judgment is right, just, and moral, and in a way, a triumph long overdue. And it is our responsibility to turn this moment into a lasting movement of civil rights equal under the law.

By the same token, a sigh of relief that some justice had been served was undoubtedly heard around the world after The Nuremberg Trials, which were prompted by indictments on Oct. 18, 1945, against some twenty individuals for crimes against humanity during World War II. In a way, that too was a triumph. Prosecutors successfully argued that German military and political officers such as Goring, Jodl, Keitel, and Frick violated natural law while serving the German war machine. The difficult journey of Holocaust survivors toward justice for crimes against their humanity had just begun. After four decades of denying a dark past, in 1990, East Germany apologized to Israel and all Jews for the Nazi Holocaust and accepted joint responsibility for the slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II.

The question of moral responsibility for an action at the time it occurred and the moral responsibility in the present time, for actions of the past cannot be separated. In other words, moral responsibility for an action, once committed, is set in stone. Germany recognized that after 40 years.

On April 24, it will be 106 years that Armenians have been waiting to release that cathartic sigh of relief for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide of 1.5 million at the hands of Ottoman Turkey.  106 years of historical truth, knowledge, proof, memoirs, photos, loss, grief, pain, protests, letters, to hear an acknowledgment that the Armenians suffered a Genocide! The word genocide is important to the Armenians because it was coined by Lemkin who, for 25 years studied the massacres and deportations of Armenians and officially introduced it to a world wide audience when it was adopted by the United Nations ‘Genocide’ Convention in 1948. The term Genocide referred to the killing, injuring or forcible removal of people with “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”

In 2019, both houses of Congress adopted a resolution recognizing the Genocide. But recognition by the president of the United States will be a kind of moral beacon to the world that signals the American commitment to human rights outweighs the scale of political and monetary gain.  Recognition by a US President would hold officers of the Ottoman Government implicated in such crimes and current officers personally responsible for their crimes against humanity .

It has been over a century, and I know that if that sigh of relief is not heard and echoed across the globe as I hope it will on April 24, 2021, Armenians will continue to resist the injustice to bring the change we seek. We must pursue as a declaration of our worth and humanity. Healing does not come by closing the books and turning away from the truth. Healing starts when the devastating consequences of injustice and loss are seen and acknowledged. For the Armenians it starts with the word Genocide.

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Listen, God Speaks

The year was 1970, a few days before the start of lent. I was unhappy, or so I thought. I was confused, frustrated, impatient, annoyed, exasperated, dissatisfied, you name it, I was it. I assumed most teenagers were like me … Continue reading

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I Urge You, Choose to Challenge

(This article was first written in 2020 and has been updated since.)

The month of March marks International Women’s Day as the global celebration of women recognized widely throughout the 20th century after its official launch by the United Nations General Assembly in 1977. It is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. Yet, the day isn’t simply a celebration — it is an international call to action for everyone to continue to push for complete gender equality.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2021  is “Choose to Challenge.”  In 2020 was “Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.” The year before that it was “Think Equal, Be Smart: Innovate for Change.” In 2018 it said, “Time is Now: Rural & Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives.” In 2017 it was “Be Bold for Change.” In 2016 it reminded the world that to the benefit of humanity “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” was essential. In 2015 it was “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture It.” In 2014 it was “Equality for Women is Progress for All.” In 2013 it was “A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women.” The year 2012 claimed to “Empower Rural Women: End Hunger and Poverty.” 2011 demanded “Equal Access to Education: Pathway to Decent Work for Women.” 2010 promoted “Equal rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All.”

Need I continue? Shamefully, it feels like a broken record. The fact that we are still fighting a battle for equality and for the recognition of the value of women’s contributions to society is indeed a shame.

There is ample evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies, and even countries. Women’s participation makes peace agreements stronger, societies more resilient and economies more vigorous.

At this crucial moment for women’s rights, it is time for men to stand with women, listen to them and learn from them and fight for gender equality in their communities. As real fathers of daughters, men should share the vision of a world where every human being is equally respected. Men should share the vision of a world where women and daughters are protected, defended and nurtured. If we are ever to defeat the systems of oppression we are all subject to, men must be involved and must work together with women on these issues.

“Those of us who have the opportunity to celebrate have the responsibility to speak for  those who cannot.”

Today, March 8, women will come together and pat each other on the back to celebrate International Women’s day; we celebrate the day with flowers, and praise each other for work well done. And truly, there are many women whose work is selflessly well done and recognized for their courage. However, those of us who have the opportunity to celebrate have the responsibility to speak for those who cannot. There are women out there who are under restrictive rules dictated by a culture that prohibits them from health care, or pursuing an education, or participating in their family’s economic progress, or in politics and worse yet, endure violence and abuse.

As an Armenian, I speak to those of my culture and heritage who must not ignore the violation of human rights that goes on in and among our culture and our homeland. We cannot turn a blind eye to the atrocity when only last year a 43 years young mother was beaten to death in Gyumri and her 13 years young daughter was beaten to a pulp and left to die. We can celebrate the day of the woman, but we will never enjoy the dignity deserved as women, as mothers, sisters, daughters, unless human rights of all women are respected and protected. Government and law enforcement in Armenia (and around the world) must accept their responsibility to protect and promote internationally recognized human rights as set by the Vienna Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, appointed in 1994.

I urge you, not to remain silent for fear of your professions, for fear of political or religious persecution by your peers. Let your this day of celebration be the day when you give voice to the girls and women whose words are unheard and whose presence is unnoticed.
Do the right thing.
Speak up.
Choose to Challenge the status quo and become the agents of change.
We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society. I urge you. Break the Silence. Speak up to stop the violence. Enlist women and men to step forward and join the drive toward a world in which women feel safe at home (and at work) and enjoy freedom to pursue their dreams and their potential.

I urge you.
If not now, When?
If not us, Who?

 

(ART WORK: Flaming Heart by Anni Barsoum) 

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Women’s History Month

From warriors of the Urartu period (as reported by Forbes) to athletes of today, from academicians and diplomats to politicians and human rights advocates, from publishers to scientists, from architects, mechanics, engineers and information technology to physicians, women across the globe have iconic groundbreakers who pushed boundaries, forced change and broke records.

The first day of March marks the onset of Women’s History Month in the United States and internationally. We dedicate 31 days to celebrate the often-overlooked contributions of women to history, culture and society. From First Lady Abigail Adams to suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton fighting for women’s right to vote; from abolitionists and women’s rights activists  Sojourner Truth and Rosa Parks; from  Amelia Earhart to the rise of feminism and women’s rights as human rights by Hillary Clinton,  the timeline of women’s history milestones stretches back to the founding of the United States. These women among so many others pushed boundaries, forced change, and paved the way for future generations.

The “backbone” to shaping recognition of women in history is Molly Murphy MacGregor, a high school history teacher who realized that the coverage of women in history was lacking in the books. She became determined to make a record of underrepresented women who created historical and monumental movements to make the world a better place. MacGregor set out to establish Women’s History Week in 1978 — a weeklong celebration hosted in California to educate others about women in history. The idea caught on within communities, school districts and organizations across the country, and in 1980, President Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. Seven years later, in 1987, Congress declared National Women’s History Week to expand the entire month of March.

Today, thirty-four years later, National Women’s History Month continues to be a major celebration and a developed grassroots movement among organizations that advocate for the inclusion of women figures in history.  One such organization founded 30 years ago is the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA), a pioneer organization established by women and for women based on the premise of elevating women to reach their full potential through education, advocacy and change. AIWA truly and inclusively recognizes how important women have always been in society. I draw comfort, pride and courage from their vision and mission in elevating Armenian women, teaching as many people as possible about women’s role in history and encouraging the retelling of history to change the future.

What you can do?
Draw strength and inspiration from the women who came before you – and from those phenomenal women working among you today. They are part of your story.

  • Thank a woman who inspires you.
  • Read about women who have done badass things.
  • Tell children about women’s leadership.
  • Stop gossiping about other women.
  • Lend a hand, lift, elevate and mentor.

Celebrate Women’s History month with pride, reassurance and courage.

 

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Scars We Bear

Scars. We all have them somewhere on our body. Some are easy to see, some are not. But they all leave a mark in lessons we have learned, or who we are or have become or wish to overcome.

I’ve had my fair share of scars. Some have faded to near oblivion over the years. Others remain as prominent reminders of a full and active childhood that gained me scratches, scrapes and scabs, bloody knees and elbows, bumps and lumps, gashes, cuts and slashes by nails, glass, ragged steel and tin, dog bites, and burns.

I still have two faded marks on my palm made some 50 years ago when an angry classmate jabbed me twice with his pencil because I had borrowed his sharpener without asking. A black spot on the sole of my foot marks the evidence of an injury acquired when I stepped on a rusty nail as a child, and eventually, when the foot seemed to be too infected, I brought it to my parents’ attention which resulted in a booster tetanus shot. A diminishing scar on my groin is testimony to an injury that occurred when an empty tin can toppled over and cut into my flesh as I lost my balance while using it as a stepping stool.

Then there was the time when I accepted a challenge to race downhill on a bike. I took a tumble, landed flat on my face and after removing the gravel from my grazed elbows, realized that there was a half inch nail that had penetrated the cartilage of my elbow.

The scar hidden in my hair line I gained when I ran, slipped and hit my head on the corner of a concrete step. I recall the fall but do not recall the pain and worry I must have caused because all I remember is waking up to having had a partially shaved scalp and stitches.

These are but a sampling of scars I bear… scars from physical tumbles, acts of bravado and a few surgeries. Each has its own story and I have mine about them, but most of them ended happily as they have healed. But what of individuals who have visible scars they wish to hide because they provide others a window into their lives? What if their scars remind them of terrible times or places they’ve been, experiences they’ve never quite been able to leave behind? The scars of abuse and pain endured, of persecution and of struggles between good and evil are difficult to see as proof of healing.

There are scars acquired through acts of heroism — saving people from fires, accidents and others from wounds sustained in combat. These are marks of honor, and though they may still hurt and blemish a handsome or beautiful visage, they are marks of true beauty for they came from showing love for a fellow human or for country.

Then there are the scars you can’t see. The ones sustained in memory of a parent who remembers every detail of their child in intensive care as doctors work to find out what’s wrong. Or details of a loss of life; a home ravaged by flood or fire; the stench of death in a war zone; or the look on a child’s face when hope is destroyed. These are the unseen wounds you think about in the middle of the night waking from some palpitant dream.

We all have scars– on our bodies, and on our hearts. They are the symbol of fragility in all of us—reminders of our journey in life, misadventures, grief, heartache and loss.  They test our determination and resilience.  Some of us will fold while others will use the reminders as their strength. It’s a personal choice.  What we do with the pain or hurt makes us who we are. But the scars on our bodies, the ones on our hearts and in our minds are only part of our stories and mementos of past events. They might be visible on the outside or they might be visible only to the individual. However, when our time is up in this world, I hope we leave here with scars. Scars say, “I took a chance,” or “I didn’t play it safe.” Scars say, “I’m human, and I made mistakes,” “I’ve learned a lesson.” Scars say, “I saved a life.” Scars say, “I fought the good fight.” Scars say, “I am a warrior.” Scars say, “I survived.” Scars say, “I lived.”

Embrace every one of them. They make you unique.

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“To-Do” List

I am a list maker. I start my day with a list of things to do as though I have a desperate need to write things down—to make order out of chaos. I have a thousand “to-do’s” revolving around in my mind, like a whirlwind causing the thoughts and items to crash and bang into each other like objects flying in the vortex of a tornado. If I can catch them one by one and pin them down, I can bring structure to chaos, body to shapelessness and manageability to otherwise the unmanageable. Come to think of it, even the Creator made order out of chaos with a list: Day 1, Light. Day 2, Sky/Water. Day 3, Land, and so on.

I make a list and then I feel like I’ve conquered the universe. I look at the list and it gives me that all important feeling of control, as though nailing the “to-do’s” down to a piece of paper makes them more doable. Of course, that’s not altogether true because making a list is not enough. I have to make the right kind of list. If it’s too long with too many items and with too much time to complete, my objectives will fail. For example, “Write my book by next week,” is not a good to-do item. Logic dictates if I break it down into smaller, more functional goals like “Write 1000 words by day’s end,” it becomes a good step toward the doable. Even if I fail, I can refine it to an easier objective: “Write 500 words by day’s end.”

Unfortunately, even if I make a perfect list, I may still encounter the unknown—the unexpected interruption when things go “Not as Planned.”   I  start out in the morning with list in hand, determined to begin at number 1 and work through to the end of the list, but the phone rings (it’s a friend who needs to connect—we’ve lost a common acquaintance to illness); the neighbor stops by (to check on containment of the squirrel population running wild on our communal back fence); the front gate buzzes (it’s a florist with a special bouquet and chocolate delivery for me) … At this point it becomes difficult to approach my list with enthusiasm when all I can think of is the acquaintance lost, the squirrels, and the persons who sent me the flowers and chocolates … and I still have 90% of my list to accomplish plus everything else that is a standard day activity which is not on the list.

Does that mean I should discard the list altogether?  I don’t think so. I just have to make a more realistically honest list. While I would much rather make a thrilling list that says, “count my piles of money,” “arrange lunch with friends,” “pack travel bag,” “climb the Himalayas,” “live on an island,” “take long afternoon naps,” “write the book,” — I resort to making a list of dull unavoidable requirements on a MUST DO to-do list. “Call dentist,” “schedule vaccination,” “buy squirrel trap,” “send thank you’s,” “express condolences,” “transcribe meeting minutes,” “fix garage door,” and among a growing list of other items “write 500 words.” Which make me think that perhaps I should move “write 500 words” to a list of desirable goals, a SHOULD DO to-do list which would include “call sister,” “call brother,” “call aunts/cousins/friends,” “cook” (instead of order in), “exercise,” “clear/file paperwork,” “reorganize hallway closet,” and “write 500 words,” among others. Of course, if I’m truly honest with myself, there are items on both these MUST DO and SHOULD DO lists that are probably not going to happen. I decide to move those to a list labeled PROBABLY WON’T DO. The problem with all these lists is that not one of them seems to get any shorter.

“My self worth and value are not measured by the ticks on my to-do list. “

Frustrated with all the items left undone, I decide to make a “have-done” list instead.  I start to write any accomplishment or “win” over the course of the day: things that I’ve achieved not only professionally but also personally …. moments that bring me real joy, or personal challenges that I overcome. Instead of always looking at what else I have to do, I  now reflect on my achievements and celebrate the smallest wins. A tiny change, but it is  monumental and in character with how I perceive success in life.  My self worth and value are not measured by the ticks on my to-do list.  I experience the euphoric, the ecstatic, the inexplicable elation that only a “have-done” list can give – instead of crossing things off, I am adding to a growing list … a list of tiny victories that otherwise might have passed me by, including having written 775 words! 

 

 

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A Beacon of Light, Once

 

This was supposed to be a joyous blogpost about The Epiphany. I started to write: May this Epiphany bring peace, joy and happiness in your lives. As the three kings Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior followed the road to the path of righteousness to witness the manifestation in the birth of King of Kings, may that same light of wisdom guide our path to love, joy, peace and  happiness.

But alas, a different manifestation took place shattering the path to love, joy and peace within the American fabric of democracy. Like many of you I witnessed the rise of domestic terrorism in this once great country. I am disillusioned as I witness on TV, jaw dropping pictures showing law-enforcement officers with guns drawn to keep protestors off the floor of the House of Representatives. There are protestors fighting police inside the building and a bleeding woman on a stretcher being rolled away outside, (who, by the time I publish this blog, is reported as dead, including three others). People are clamoring the areas around the Capitol waving American flags and Trump banners while Trump delivers a taped message continuing to stress his claim of election fraud and telling people to go home. Meanwhile the constitutional process has been thwarted and the country is in disarray.  This is not something new. It started in 2016. And I mourn this country’s demise.

I, like many of you who came from abroad mourn the country (America) that was my family’s salvation. When I arrived here in the US, I felt gratitude for the values of openness, decency and tolerance found in this my adopted home. I became a naturalized citizen as soon as I could, because in a world that seemed to reward dishonesty, cutting corners, lying, cheating, stealing, bullying, harassing, and all manner of coercive tactics, this was the country where I could practice with the values ingrained by my roots. This was the place where the integrity of character was rated above all else. Here was practiced openness and tolerance that made this country a safe haven for me and many like me. This country was the place where I was awestruck to witness the majesty of a peaceful transfer of power for over 40 years. 

Regretfully, all this that I value has degenerated.  Since 2016 the surge of misguided nationalism that accompanied then elected President Trump revealed deeply held prejudices about immigrants. Racism and xenophobia, which I had mistakenly presumed to be banished from the minds of majority, made its ugly return under the guise of nationalism and patriotism. I, and the likes of me were at a risk of being objectified as foreign or alien if we spoke with an accent or looked other that “white.”

I take no joy in these states of affairs. A political rot has set. The country is divided, and many are as angered and disillusioned as I am. Government plays craftily and manipulatively with procedures, international treaties and internal constitutional legislations. Ethical standards have taken a tumble by turning a blind eye toward harassment, political correctness, and moral behavior. 

Having come from an ancestral ethnic group of people from the highlands of Western Asia who have had to constantly battle and prove themselves a member of the reigning society, and who because of genocide, have had exile and resettlements as part of their history, my grandparents found a home in the Middle East. It was there that I grew up under the influence of Mediterranean hospitality and a union with the best of European and Western education and a marriage of their cultures. However, civil unrest and war, compelled me to move voluntarily to the United States, a place where my quintessentially multi cultured self was welcomed. I was and am pro Europe, a feeling reinforced by having lived in European countries and receiving from them a firm educational foundation. My multi-identities seemed to be complementary to my life here in the United States and the values it upheld.  As the granddaughter of traumatized and exiled people for reasons of religious beliefs and values of character rooted in loyalty, courage, compassion, fairness and respect, I went to great lengths in defense of these global values that embodied decency, respect and integrity.  I do not take my citizenship lightly. I am Armenian by heritage and conviction, proud to have Lebanese roots in hospitality and union of cultures, and I would like to remain proud of the America I chose to love. But this once beacon of light and hope is now inward, polarized and self-aggrandizing.

Which brings me to the realization that if America was once the beacon of light and hope, the land of opportunity, tolerance, inclusivity, courage, compassion and generosity, it was due to the leadership of presidents and their courageous administrations who exemplified what their respective party’s mission was. Republican or Democrat, they didn’t abandon the principles they believed in. They didn’t falter from domestic integrity, international cooperation, honesty and above all, America being the “shining city on the hill,” inviting the world to admire and follow our example. It was a wonderful enviable example that drew support from a host of nations and immigrants that wanted to be like America.  It was all due to the “chutzpa” and integrity of the men and women who understood the difference between their role in government to ensure their party stance on issues that affect their national vision, and the personal interests and visions of a running president. 

All that came to a crashing halt in the four years of the Trump presidency. We have slipped far from the shining hill and we are now the pariah of the civilized world. The election of Joe Biden offers a reprieve from the crassness and naked insensitivity of the past four years. But can we recapture our old glory? Can we eradicate Trumpism from our national soul? Can we remove the stain on this nation left us by a president whose self-aggrandizing became his number one motive to create a cult-like following?

For our children’s and grandchildren’s sake, I hope the answer is yes! It is now up to our next president and his administration, house of reps. and senate to save our democracy and our Constitution. And it is up to us, citizens of the United States, to embody the spirit of America in her celebration of tolerance, brotherhood and diversity; to share “with those less fortunate our wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity; all while maintaining the traditions of ‘our’ ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America.”

May the light of wisdom guide our path.

Good luck, Joe.

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Hello 2021


So long, 2020!
You gave the world sorrow and too much pain.

The pandemic shattered, scattered, stalked corners of the world,
Bearing death’s weight mercilessly on families, friends and strangers.
We heroically adapted, learned and pushed for solutions,
Juggling work from home, zooming, with kids and online classes;
Washing hands, staying apart, waiting in line.
Loss of jobs and income, political divisiveness,
Upheavals, wars, genocides;
Unity turned discord within races, cultures and ethnicities…
A universe crumbled
Afflicting further grief and bitter wails behind our masks.

Time passes.We turn to a new page of the calendar.
Hello 2021!
You bring fresh songs and melodies
Rich with promise of vaccines, a renewed appreciation for each other.
For medical science and healthcare workers, for teachers, parents, builders,
For doers and makers, for skills, diversity and innovation
We yearn for wings to break free from our confined solitude.
Abundant in sweet hope, we seek
Strength
To rebuild our crumbled universe from the inside out.
Courage
To not waste one moment of our precious time on anything less than the positivity of who we are.
Wisdom
To let go of what no longer serves us,
And for light to lead us to heights
That harvest life’s victories.

Fill our hearts with love
That spring gifts of goodness we can offer to the world.

With gratitude
for the miracles of our lives
Hello 2021
We embrace the opportunity of you.

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Dear Child, (Letter from Santa)

Actual letter to a pre-adolescent child on Christmas morning.

Dear (Name of Child),

For the past decade, I have watched you grow into the bright person that you are. And every year at Christmas, wherever in the world you may be, I fly into the night to bring you gifts that cause your eyes to twinkle with anticipation. This year, you may have heard from your friends that I, Santa, am not real; that there is no magic to my existence. But I know that in every doubting heart, there is a small, itching, corner that wants to believe. So, here’s the truth — I am not just a jolly man in a red coat who gives gifts to all good boys and girls on Christmas day. I represent the magical spirit of Christmas.  I am real in spirit and intent, flavored with good and godly ideas of love, giving, caring, and helping.  I have been around longer than any one has lived, and my job as Santa is to teach children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe–in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. But my child, above all, you also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

The spirit of Christmas is the magic it brings. It is found in the spirit of love and giving.  As children get older, parents start helping me with giving presents because just like you, they were kids once and they also learned about the love and giving spirit of Christmas. Since you are older now, you can understand that the true spirit of Christmas lives not just in me but in so many people. People like your parents, who can bring love, magic, hope and happiness to others just as I have done for so many years (and will continue to do so for younger children.) The best part is that anyone can become a doer and bearer of these things…making someone’s day brighter, someone’s burden a little lighter, by showing them there are things to look forward to in this world you live. So when your friend/s tell you Santa is not real, think of the magic you have felt in your own life.  What do you call that moment when you are completely and totally immersed in the book world of adventure, and you hear the characters talking to you, as you imagine the scene in your head?  Isn’t it magic? When you can bring laughter, excitement, swashbuckling or playful moments of your imagination into the world around you as an expression of your creativity, isn’t it magical? So too am I.

Life is miraculous, magical and wonderful, just like Santa, but only if you are willing to believe in the mystery will you be able to see it as such. Choose to let it go and the magic will disappear, just as with the belief in Santa. See me as the spirit and intent of all that is good in love and giving and the magic will unfold and last.

You have been a very good kid, and your parents and I are very proud of you and your achievements. I know it was hard to move to another country far away from friends and other family members. and adapt to a completely different environment. But YAY, look at what you’ve achieved.!!! Magical!! You will find a few small items from me under the tree, but please thank your parents for the large gift which did not fit under the tree.

Merry Christmas!

With Love,
Santa Claus

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Christmas Light

Over the years, I stopped decorating the perimeter of our house with Christmas lights. The children grew, we downsized the home, and it became too much of an effort to string lights around the house to reflect the season. It was much easier to view and appreciate the random neighborhood homes dotted with lights.

This year, something changed. An acquaintance posted photos of her home beautifully decorated with ornaments and lights that shone brilliantly revealing a cheerful “feel” of Christmas.  That same evening, I took a long walk and then a drive through different locales. Almost instantly, enchantment won my heart as I witnessed the magical transformation of light in neighborhoods and city. Here, there and everywhere, Christmas lights shone and twinkled on rooftops, around windows and doors, on lawns and on shrubs and in trees. There were strings of colorful lights, some blue, some just white lining the perimeter of homes. Shimmering mismatched splashes of light draped over fences and shrubs. Oh, what a sight of color that dazzled and illuminated the once dark streets; a show of solidarity during these tough and isolating times; a sign of unstoppable hope emerging from the dark night.

As I admired the lights I thought about all those whom we have lost this year during the course of the pandemic. In this country alone, nearly three hundred thousand dead, lives destroyed, and homes upended. People have lost friends and family members, loneliness has increased, and, for some, severe financial stresses make this time of year even tougher. We’ve missed the closeness of friends, loved ones around tables, shoulder to shoulder drinks at a bar, firm handshakes and tight hugs. We’ve lost our cheerful appearance and the fizz that went with our fashionable veneer at luncheons and banquets. Before Covid, our world centered around spending time among large gatherings of family, worship and song, travel, sporting events and the adventures that we would experience together. We miss sitting close to someone, photos with Santa, snuggling grandchildren, and passing on the traditions of amity and the kiss of peace! Yes, all of these things have changed drastically in 2020.

We want life to be what we know as normal. But until the vaccine becomes available across the board, and until peoples’ trust returns to a place where we can look at each other in a more inclusive way with less judgment and anger; until we can eliminate the division between “us” and “them;” until we can heal from the hurt and regain faith in humanity and be prepared for a unified perspective of the world, the festive jeweled lights unleash the enduring hope for the future. In the midst of the pandemic, assurance of hope is showing up in the most ordinary and imaginary of ways — in Christmas lights. Whether they are flung across a shrub, lining a window or in a dazzling display that emblazon an entire yard, Christmas lights are saying, “Covid 19, you will not have the last word.”

That night, I came home like a child who  had just seen Christmas lights for the first time. Their radiance flooded my soul with their twinkling reminder that we are not what we have lost and we are not what has been taken from us. We are what we have here in the present, grounded in hope. The Christmas lights are simply reflectors of that hope, that same hope evidenced in the star of Bethlehem, the Christmas Star signaling victory of light over darkness in the birth of the savior shining for all mankind.

To shed further light onto the world, this year mankind will witness a unique phenomenon which was last visible some 800 years ago. A “Christmas Star” visible from wherever you are on this Earth (weather permitting) will appear on December 21, the night of the winter solstice. Two planets, Saturn and Jupiter will align and look like a “double planet” to produce a significant amount of light. If the world ever needed this ‘great conjunction’ of light and hope, it is now, during the final month of 2020. Look for the light. Celebrate with light. Witness the tangible brilliant reminder of the original Christmas Star, and radiate from your heart the light shining for all mankind.

From my home to yours, Healthy, Happy Christmas.

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