Originally published November 23, 2012

Each holiday season I tend to spend a bit more time than usual reflecting on our world. Where we are, where we appear to be going, things mankind might strive to do, if only…  It is a time when I experience joy, and sadness. It is a time when I wish for our world a true sense of brotherhood for all our differences. For whatever creed, nation, tribe, geographic location, gender (of whatever persuasion) or station in life; we all, each one, contribute something miraculous to the universe. The existence of the human spirit.

I want to challenge you this season to look at one thing–just one–that bugs you. Something that you don’t like. A person, a place, a thing, an idea, a group of people. Find a way to see that “thing” in a different light. Not necessarily to change your mind or your convictions; but maybe to bring a little understanding into why that “thing” is so bothersome to you. I challenge you to see that “thing” from a different point of view. Can you know the inner feelings of that person? Why they chose the life they chose? Can you know how people in that place and time feel and why they feel the way they do? Is there somewhere that you can learn and, perhaps, find a bit of yourself in their hopes and dreams? Can you, if for just a moment, realize that they do have dreams?

Take an idea, turn it inside out and truly understand why you don’t like it. Do you fear something in it? Does it bring thoughts or feelings that make you uncomfortable? Is it that you just never took the time to understand where the idea came from? Have you given thought as to why that person or group of people feel so terribly convicted of their own thoughts and feelings?

I am not saying that all actions are good, or that they all have some valid goal. I do not follow a philosophy that makes all things “relative.” Part of the sadness I experience is how determined some of us are in following a course involving the destruction of others. I cannot grasp the purpose. But you know what? I can grasp the pain. I cannot not fathom the need to control others; but I can grasp the fear of lack of control.

Take this season to reflect on what thing you can see differently; even if you will never agree or like it. And, while you’re at it, find some small piece of good you can give to the world in return for the simple miracle of having been given life and the chance to have the education, the means  and the opportunity to read such things as this.


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
— written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s —

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