I’ve learned a lot from the mountains. A deep love for conservation, for starters. An appreciation of their scale and power, too. And in climbing them, I’ve picked up lessons in endurance, situational awareness and tolerance for risk.
But success in the peaks can be summed up in one word: resilience.
The toughness implied in that word is all-encompassing. A successful summit attempt (and that sometimes means turning back short of the top) is based on the resilience of your body, mind and spirit. If you come up short in these areas, the chances of failure — and potentially harm — rise dramatically.
Resilience is a word that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Before the Great Recession, my household income was at its peak. But there were areas of weakness that would be exposed when times got tough, and I learned a lot from that. “Never again,” I told myself, hoping to avoid the pitfalls that befell me when I lost my job and had to find work in a new town. As best as I could, I tried to figure out how to become more resilient when storms appear on the horizon.
And just like that, here we are. The arrival of COVID-19 brought a pandemic to our country, and with it came an immediate recession. We’re being told to stay home, work remotely and go out only for essential business. Nearly 17 million people are out of work. And millions more, like me, are losing income from furloughs or loss of customers. That doesn’t take into account the hundreds of thousands who have become sick with this nasty virus.
It reminded me of that word, and how important resilience is. I’ve thought about it a lot over the past year, and it’s come into sharp focus over the past month. Here’s how I see that term playing out now:
You need to be physically resilient. Like any disease, this new coronavirus is particularly cruel to those whose health is already compromised. I’m reminded of a poster that graced the wall of a gym I used to go to that had one short line written at the bottom: The stronger you are, the harder you are to kill. Physical fitness, a healthy diet and proper sleep are your weapons to defend against not only the virus, but also the stress that comes with it, and the economic hardships that have befallen us as a result. Find ways to be active. Walk, run, ride your bike, lift weights. Eat healthy foods, not just comfort foods that taste good, but aren’t nutritionally valuable. Get your sleep. These habits are what make athletes great, and they work well for the rest of us, too. Not only can you make your body more fit, but a good exercise routine will help work off stress. And remember that poster: If you’re stronger and fitter, you’ll be a better survivor.
You need to be mentally resilient. Mental toughness is critical when hard times arrive. Create in yourself a mindset that accepts that things aren’t ideal, then launch your efforts from there. In other words, you know that things suck, so what can you do about it? Train yourself to work with the facts and circumstances as they are, not what they used to be. If you’re facing some time off from your job, see if there are things you can learn that will expand your marketable knowledge and skills. Keep your mind active, working and thinking toward solutions to the problems you’re currently facing. A proactive, engaged mind will propel you toward making decisions on your terms rather than repeatedly reacting to — or knuckling under — new challenges. Give yourself some grace when you feel overwhelmed. But in so doing, stay the course and don’t stay too long in those moments of anxiety and sadness. Use the tools at your disposal the manage your mind and your emotions.
Build resilience in your finances. This is a tough one, because most of us are a paycheck or two away from disaster. Part of that is the reality of where wages are for middle class and lower-income workers. But also, some of that is our fault. Personal finance gurus like Dave Ramsey suggest having an emergency fund that’s equal to 6-9 months of income, and personally, I think that’s unrealistic for most people. But he has a point. Having an emergency fund to make up for lost income is critical. Pay down your debts as much as possible. And given where we’re at now, it’s high time to cut expenses. Take a hard look at all those monthly box subscription services, online streaming services and other expenses you have. Sort them out by “wants” and “needs,” and be honest about it. Build up the ability to be able to weather this storm or, if needed, be able to quickly pick up and move to where new job opportunities are. And when this downturn passes, keep up these new habits. Chances are, you can get by maintaining your old car, not using credit cards and ordering fewer things on Amazon instead of falling into old free-spending habits that weaken your financial position. And if at all possible, avoid dipping into retirement savings. Sometimes it’s impossible, but resist that as long as you can as it’s incredibly difficult to make those losses down the road.
Work on your spiritual resilience. In this case, you can find comfort and inner strength by embracing your faith. Find time to dive into those sacred texts and pray. Look for wisdom there to help you deal with the stresses, questions and anger that confronts you. These are often quiet, solitary times that will allow you to slow down, see things more clearly and inform the decisions you make and actions you take.
And even if you’re not a religious person, you can still apply “spiritual” practices that will make you inwardly stronger. Find time to be alone in a quiet setting, be still, breathe deep. Go on a long walk, ride or run. Maybe do some gardening. Or yoga. These activities have rhythmic, meditative or peaceful attributes that parallel what many religious people find when they pray and meditate on scriptures. Meditative practices tend to unclutter your mind and create inner peace.
I know that some of us are going to get trucked over the next several months. The Great Recession jacked me up for years, and frankly, I never fully recovered from the losses of that downturn. But I learned from it. My hope is that we can weather this and come out OK on the other side. We can’t control a lot of the bigger forces at work, but we can put on our own personal armor and steel ourselves for the challenges ahead. Truth is, we don’t have another option because giving in is no option at all.
And that brings me back to what I’ve learned on the mountain. The peaks can be beautiful, peaceful and energizing. But they can be scary, dangerous and even violent places, too. Getting to the top — or getting off the mountain safely — is often a combination of enjoyment, effort, fear and wisdom. The constant is it’s never easy. But another constant for those who have had success in the mountains is that they are resilient. And resiliency is a character trait from which we can all benefit now.
A long time ago, I found my dad doing something he loves: sitting in front of a sound system, with one of his favorite artists cranking out tunes. My dad spent years of his life as a professional musician, all the way back to his early teens, and is a bit of an expert when it comes to audio. If he didn’t have his headphones on, the house was filled with sounds ranging from Aaron Copeland to Pink Floyd.
In this instance it was Chuck Mangione. Mangione is a legendary trumpet player, jazz artist and band leader back in the 1960s and 1970s, and one piece in particular is considered one of his best. It starts out with Mangione on a lonesome trumpet solo, then builds as the full fury of his orchestra is unleashed.
The title of this song: “Hill Where the Lord Hides.”
It made me wonder what inspired Mangione to compose such a thing, and to have it titled so.
Years later – many, many years later – I found a place that could fit the description of Mangione’s piece. It was on the side of a hill, ancient boulders all around, in the middle of a stand of Oklahoma forest and away from the noise of the city. I paused as the sun was setting and felt that if there was anywhere God might be in those woods, it would be there. It demanded me to stop.
Ask my folks what sort of kid I was and they’d have plenty of descriptions, but one theme that would often arise is that I had no problem entertaining myself. Play with kids? Sure. Do my own thing? Just as good.
This carried over well into adulthood. Running, hiking, lifting, whatever. I enjoy doing these things with other people. I also enjoy doing them alone. I’ve long been comfortable spending many hours punishing myself on the trail with no one else around.
A few years back, I drove 10 hours to Denver to meet a group of friends for a climb of Capitol Peak. The mountain is one of Colorado’s famous 14ers, a moniker denoting peaks that rise to 14,000 feet or more. Of those 14ers, Capitol is considered the toughest.
I felt good about joining this group because of how experienced everyone else was. Confidence in a team’s experience becomes confidence in yourself, I’ve found. But the weather that week was awful, particularly in the northern half of the state. Heavy rains and floods ravaged much of the East Slope, and well into the Rockies. Higher up, such weather would turn Capitol’s already challenging and tricky route into something far more dangerous. The plan fell apart, and as the days rolled on the group was less and less excited about finding another destination.
For me: a major bummer. I drove a long way to stand on a pile of rocks, and I wasn’t about to head home without trying to summit something. So I fixed my eyes farther south, where the weather wasn’t so nasty, and on a mountain that my experience and skill would prove adequate, even if I was solo.
So on a Sunday afternoon, I pulled myself away from a televised football game, hit the highway and made my way southwest toward Buena Vista. I car-camped at a trailhead in the Collegiate Peaks, a stone’s throw away from a creek that began its flow high in the Missouri Gulch Basin. I’d been here before, 10 years back, to hike Mount Belford: a steep but straightforward march that tested me and a bunch of friends who were new to the whole 14er thing. Memories of that trip – and the route to the basin – would help me navigate my way up Missouri Mountain at dawn.
Like any 14er hike or climb, this one tested my legs and lungs as well as my will. As far as I knew no one else was within miles of me, so I had to rationalize continuing as my body and the weather said “turn around.” Being a stubborn ole goat, I forced my way up to Missouri’s summit ridge and topped out mid-morning.
Clouds swirled, built and fled, almost as if they were teasing me with the possibility of unleashing a storm, or perhaps blowing away altogether. At times they were light gray, then moments almost charcoal. Winds were moving them, but unheard even high atop that ridge.
Below me were layers. All the layers of the alpine in the fall. Grays and browns of ancient rock, and light browns and greens of the tundra. Still farther down were deeper greens of willows, then evergreens, and in the distance, red, orange and gold hues from aspens in full fall regalia. Alone at the summit and surveying the sublime greatness of the high country, I verbally expressed my gratefulness to God. If I were him, I’d be in places like this every day.
The spot where I like to run has a network of trails that covers 48 miles through a trio of tree-carpeted ridges on the southern edge of the Osage Hills on Tulsa’s south side. Before I learned of this place, I’d been a running for about a year, picking up an exercise habit from my youth, but not coming into my own as a runner – really identifying as a runner – until I started pounding dirt on those trails. So many paths to explore, so many opportunities to get lost, turned around, see new things and discover new places, all within 15 minutes from my doorstep. Years later, if I don’t get out there at least once a week, it feels as if I’ve missed a crucial opportunity.
One such week, I had some free time but no real reason to run. The day was growing long, but there was still enough time to jump in my car, get to the trailhead and log a few miles, even if it was just a hike. I eschewed the running gear for sturdier, warmer hiking garb, including a trusted pair of boots, and hit the trail.
My hope was to do a loop that would take me to a sweet little outcrop nicknamed “Rock City” by local mountain bikers and trail runners. I liked it because it was out-of-the-way, quiet and, with the trees stripped of their leaves by the winter, curiously scenic. I’m not sure why, but I felt an urge to go there and catch the views as the sun was going down.
I also knew that as darkness approached, the trails would clear out. That sounded good to me. Some time alone on the trails, in the depths of the woods, was what I needed, almost in the way that you might crave a certain type of food after a week of privation, or maybe a shot of caffeine to jolt you awake in the morning.
As I hiked I knew there was no way I’d cover the two miles to Rock City before dusk. The relative warmth of the hour was giving way to the chill of night, a subtle nip and lengthening shadows signaling the waning strength of day. It was time to pick up the pace, so the hike turned into a run despite my initial intentions. I had somewhere to be, and a finite bit of time to get there.
I am amazed by how much water can fall from the air.
I figured the cloud cover on that early June day in 2010 would be a blessing, shading my hike from the hot Oklahoma sun. Well, I got that. And a whole lot more. Shortly after hitting the trail in the Charon’s Garden Wilderness of the Wichita Mountains, those blessed, cloudy sunshades dumped their contents on me and pretty much the rest of western Oklahoma in record amounts.
A weekday hike in a wilderness increases the possibility of solitude. A deluge? Well, that pretty much seals it. Solitude was what I was looking for, and solitude is what I got. Me, alone and waterlogged in the ruggedness of the Wichitas, working out a few of my demons while trying to find some calm during what was, fittingly, a very stormy part of my life.
Eventually those rains gave way. The thunder and lightning subsided. I’d been given a break – a pass, maybe – to continue on.
My destination was an ancient crag called Crab Eyes, so named because of the two, nearly identical boulders perched atop a giant slab of granite. Seen from the north, it looks like a massive stony crab peering over groves of scrub oak and cedar.
Hiking there is a matter of following a skinny trail over a couple of gentle ridges before a final approach to the formation itself. It disappears from view behind the folds of the terrain looming over the trail, and then you make one last turn around a bend.
And there it is.
A short headwall forms the base of Crab Eyes, a foundation for the rock tower that holds the “eyes” of the formation aloft.
It’s easy to describe how Crab Eyes looks. But actually seeing it, even feeling it, well, that’s another matter. It took me a long time to figure that out. I knew it felt different from the rest of the wilderness. The peaks surrounding it are bigger, and maybe more grand. But in truth, Crab Eyes is the center of this little universe. Like I said, it took me some time to capture its feel, but years later, I know. Crab Eyes is akin to a temple, its headwall leading to an altar that overlooks most of the range. During the stillness of the lull in the storm, it felt almost holy, its playful name thoroughly unfit for its actual character.
I walked up the headwall, then had a seat on the giant base of the rock tower. The views of Elk Mountain, Granite Mountain and Twin Rock Mountain were spectacular. The clouds thinned slightly and birds began to sing. I snacked on some trail food, reclined on a rock and enjoyed the quiet warmth of midday. I could easily see how other people would also revere this place, perhaps even hold it sacred. I could imagine native peoples coming to a site like this to do business with their creator in days long gone. I felt that, too.
Right then, what I needed was peace. I needed a calm in the storm, somewhere the phone calls and texts and emails and all sorts of urgent voices couldn’t find me. I could imagine God himself feeling that way. Maybe Crab Eyes was a place God would go, to bask in his creation for awhile before resuming his urgent work. Maybe such a thought is heretical. Hell, it probably is. But in that time, I felt drawn to that stony temple, to seek refuge, even for just a short stay. And God was with me, showing me the place he likes to go when things get too loud for too long.
Hiking boots aren’t the best choice you can make for running trails. On the plus side, they’ll handle anything underfoot. You feel like a human version of a Jeep as you plow right over rocks and roots, and through mud and puddles. They’re also heavy, and the running becomes laborious. But the clock was ticking, the sun lowering, and time was running short.
I finally rounded a familiar bend, and to my right were the rugged landmarks of Rock City. I’d arrived just in time to stop, snap a few pics and take in the views.
I like the way these hills look at sunset. Any photographer will tell you that late afternoon light (as well as that of dawn) is prime time for shooting the most dramatic pictures. Softening light colors the terrain in deeper shades and the warm glow of the sun contrasts with the shadowy contours of the trees and the rocks. The light is ever-changing and fleeting, so timing is everything.
After a time, I’d taken all the photographs I thought I could get. So I found a stony perch, sat down and watched as the sun sunk low in the west.
I didn’t come here just to shoot pictures. I came here to be alone. I heard a runner pass by a few minutes before, but now it was just me, a light breeze and the occasional rustling of dead leaves from a squirrel scurrying for cover as night approached.
Suddenly my mind was flooded with memories, and most of them were bittersweet, faces of people I know and knew, of pleasant moments and hard times. Reflective thought is often like that, when you get enough time to stop and let regrets revisit you like old ghosts. What-if scenarios play out. Your own history accuses you, not in a prosecutorial way, but something more subtle. And yet it stings just the same, cruelly tearing at you and leaving you feeling a little more tattered and frayed.
Thinking he’d be the only other being out there, I brought these things to God. I asked for things I knew I couldn’t have, beseeching him for favors when I knew the answer was a preordained “no.” But why not? An all-knowing being knows what I’m thinking anyway, so I might as well come clean and get it off my chest. The past is the past, unchangeable and ultimately affecting the direction of our future. I expected those prayers to become teachable moments, but not in the way where immediate revelation is bestowed. I suppose I’d have to wait for clarity.
A lot of people don’t believe in God, or prayer, or any sort of spirituality at all, and I get that. But even if my thoughts and words are floating away into space, unheard and unheeded, there is still value to finding a little sanctuary like Rock City, tending to my scars and letting the stillness of the woods serve as a place to convalesce, even if for the brief time it took for the sun to finally dip below the horizon. I looked to this place for some catharsis, and I got what I came for. Dusk was upon me, and it was time to go.
One might be tempted to look at solo ventures to lonely places as a setup for brooding, but it’s not always that way. There are times when you’re in a wild place without a soul to be seen for miles and miles, and completely different emotions wash over you. Being alone for a few hours doesn’t have to have an emo-laden soundtrack on perpetual repeat.
About a year ago, I trekked to far western Oklahoma to see a place that had transfixed me since I was a teen – Black Mesa, the highest point in the state, so far away from everything else in the Sooner State that it exists in the Mountain Time Zone. A little town called Kenton is nearby, a picturesque village of maybe a few dozen souls stubbornly clinging to the western lifestyle of the High Plains.
Black Mesa is no towering peak or grand formation. But it’s beautiful just the same. It’s the remains of old lava flows that coursed through the area eons ago, the hard rock of solidified lava standing firm while softer rock and soil slowly eroded away.
The hike to the top is straightforward and not too difficult. On that mid-December day, no one was out there. All I saw were some cows (the Nature Conservancy allows ranchers to run cattle out there), a few birds, and maybe some ground squirrels. But other than that, it was as still as you can get.
Topping out took a little time, and once I did I hiked to the western rim of the mesa, plopped down on the edge of a cliff and stared out across a panoramic view overlooking northeastern New Mexico. Far in the distance loomed a lone volcanic peak, clothed in snow.
My meal was simple and delicious – rolls, summer sausage, cheese and an orange. Clouds that had obscured the skies briefly broke, and while it was cool, it wasn’t uncomfortable.
Nothing negative bounced inside my head this time. Instead, I spent my lunchtime reflecting on the trip itself – the weird noises of unseen creatures I heard at camp the night before, the improbable beauty of the Glass Mountains near Woodward (a couple hours east of me), the conversation I had with the owner of a lonely gas station farther east in the Oklahoma Panhandle. I was looking forward to hunting down some dinosaur tracks on the way out, a cold brew, and if time allowed, some famously good barbecue for dinner.
Meeting new people, hearing their stories and seeing new places is energizing. The views from Black Mesa were equally so. I’d spent seven hours driving out here, hoping that there would be some sort of payoff, and there was. In spades.
The trip itself was a gift. Not that anyone surprised me and said, “You’re going to Black Mesa!” as if it were a game-show prize. But how it turned out – being able to do all these things, and have the time and physical ability to do so (not to mention cooperative weather) was a pleasant confluence that left me grateful.
Sometimes you have your moments. The universe smiles and says, “this day, this place, is for you.” Black Mesa symbolizes that for me. It may not have the radical vistas of the Rockies, or the storied scenery of China’s Huang Shan or whatever, but gratitude is what Black Mesa means to me. It was good for me to be there, and better to enjoy it on its terms, with no distractions. I suppose I could have stayed home, watched Netflix, hit the gym or done some laundry. But it wouldn’t have topped the experience of slicing off another chunk of sausage and munching away as I stared out into the seemingly endless New Mexico prairie below.
Certain places will provoke dread or pain. Others comfort or safety. But Black Mesa? That place is a big ole smile.
Leaving Rock City was a lot like how I go there, a slow clomping run so I could cover as much ground as possible before darkness fell. The ruggedness of the trails and the failing light made me think better of it after only a few minutes.
Slowing down to a hike allowed me to look around a little more, to notice things that might have escaped my attention if I were still looking at the ground in front of me, picking lines to avoid tripping and face-planting into the dirt. Walking is way easier than running when darkness falls.
There is a spot on the trail that opens up, where trees have been cleared to make way for a row of powerlines that feed electricity to the city. The gap allowed me to see something rising where the sun had just set: Venus was shining bright in the purple and dark blue of the evening sky. Looking to my left, the skies were already blackening, and the stars glinting brightly as night took over.
I’m not sure why this particular trip to Rock City sticks out, but part of it has to do with Venus and the stars, sort of a cosmic wink letting me know that despite my angst, things were going to be OK. And when they weren’t, I could always come back, find my bit of peace, and have my words with God in the quiet embrace of the forest. It would be there, and he would be there, in the lonely places. The sacred places. The happy places. The hill where the Lord hides was in these woods, at the edge of an ancient lava flow, in a stony tabernacle of crags, and on the lofty heights of a Rocky Mountain summit.
These are the places where the worldly and the otherworldly meet, and it’s what continues to draw me to them.
If you’re curious about the Mangione song referred to above, here’s a video showing a live performance. You’ll really dig it if you’re into that 1970s jazz sound with a huge ensemble.
I remember when I was a kid that the first day of December was a cause for celebration. Christmas was close! And two weeks off from school! A fine, soothing, warm feeling would come over me.
As the years have gone by, the holiday’s impact has changed. Family gradually spread all over the country, so the holidays meant seeing everyone again after months of being apart. So time off school and gifts under the tree gradually took a back seat to reuniting with loved ones.
Unfortunately, I’ve become increasingly cranky with the onset of age. Even scroogey. Christmas decorations crowd stores in October. Thanksgiving got swallowed by Black Friday. I can hear the damn Lexus Christmas jingle from a mile away. I mean, who buys someone a $50,000 car as a Christmas present, anyway? Oh, and the Radio Shack ad with computer beeps and boops designed to sound like a Christmas carol… please make it stop!
So I’ve found myself in this state where I’ve been pretty jaded toward this holiday, a fact makes me sad. It makes me try to find ways to dig a little deeper as to why Christmas should be important to me.
Like a lot of people, I’m Christian. Not your typical Christian, at least not these days. Sometimes I cuss. Sometimes I drink. I look back on some of the decisions I’ve made and just shake my head. But my roots remain. God is important to me. But He seems rather lost in the blitzkrieg of marketing that pounds me day and night starting sometime just before Halloween. There’s your real “war on Christmas.”
So to prevent me from going full-on Ebeneezer, I have to remember why the holiday is celebrated in the first place.
Before I go any further, please keep in mind that I’m no preacher or anything like that, and all I’m trying to explain is how I try to stay rooted during a time of year when it’s too easy to forget everything outside of our impulses to eat, drink, buy and consume at prodigious levels. So with that in mind, here’s my summary…
Christmas is about hope. The Bible tells about the coming of a unique being – all man, but also all divine, God incarnate. His mission in time included sharing very deep wisdom, but ultimately, Christ’s purpose on earth was to give Himself up, to the point of death, to absolve the world of all the awful things we do. One act, selflessly given, where He took the fall for us so we could have the opportunity to reconcile with the creator of the universe.
In short, we, the people of this earth, get a chance to start over with our lives.
Christmas is a celebration heralding Jesus’ arrival, and the hope that He brought with him.
Not Santa, not a Lexus with a giant red bow, not any of that.
There are times when the magnitude of this strikes me hard, and resonates deep within my soul. A lot of times, these epiphanies hit me when I’m outside, be it on a long run or a wilderness trek. These are the places where I see God.
In those times when I have questions, frustrations and anger, His words echo the handiwork of His deeds that I see:
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” he asks Job many millennia ago, and asks me today. “Who determined its measurements – surely you must know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all of the sons of God shouted for joy?”
It’s a stern rebuke, but strangely, also a source of comfort.
About ten years ago, I did my first big alpine ascent. It was a 20-mile round trip hike to the top of Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest point. On a route that long, you get a lot of time to think. And so I did.
I pondered the magnificence of the mountains, and what they actually mean to the survival of life on earth. These towering sentinels act as nature’s water towers, massive stone reservoirs gathering and storing huge amounts of snow, ice and rain that are later released into the lowlands as streams, creeks, and then rivers. That water nourishes the earth and rejuvenates the oceans. And those oceans give birth to the storms that give us rain and snow, and the cycle continues its beautiful, life-giving dance that has carried on for eons. Without these huge piles of earth that thrust skyward from the ground, I have my doubts there would be any life on this planet at all.
When you think of the intricacies of that dynamic, you appreciate the engineering involved. My mind wandered further, contemplating the forces of nature involved in mountain building (tectonic movement, magma currents, magnetism, volcanism), and how the size of the earth, its proximity to the sun, and the fact that we’re orbiting a star of just the right size in a path that’s just the right distance, to perfectly encourage and sustain life.
So many factors, so many details, so many things just right for you and me to walk, breathe and live right this very moment. The incredible energy and power involved in these processes boggles the mind.
That said, we’re just talking about one solar system in a galaxy filled with billions more, in a universe packed with an untold number of equally huge galaxies.
We are taught there is a God who created all of this. And yet we are also told that the same being who did all that, who has that kind of power, also thinks of each of us in such a personal and loving way that He’d sacrifice so much (the arc of Jesus’ earthly life closes with his crucifixion, death and resurrection, lest we forget) just to bring us closer to Him.
When you contemplate that, with all of the struggles we face, that is a very hopeful message. And the Christmas story is one that epitomizes such a hope, that one so great and powerful is looking out for us.
I know many of you are not Christian. Some of you may not even believe in God at all, and you may be shaking your head at all of this. I understand.
But if you’re going to take anything away from this, at least recognize a few things.
First, recognize how fortunate we are to have this little ball of rock where we live, and be grateful for the beauty that it holds. Be grateful for a body that can explore it and enjoy its provisions. Be thankful for a mind that can ponder these facts, be inspired by what you see, and appreciate the good things that surround us.
Second, don’t be left out of the real Christmas spirit – that of hope. People like me find our hope in God and his love, and we try to emulate the examples given to us not only please God, but to make life better for the people around us. Others may find hope by alternate means. Regardless, it’s a profitable thing to dwell on those things that are good and right, and find your hope and inspiration to do right by your fellow man.
Lastly, there is a giving spirit at this time of year that partially stems from the story of the wise men’s gift to Jesus, as well Jesus’ gift to us. If nothing else, the spirit to give of ourselves is something we can all share in, and do so in a way that expresses the gratitude we have for the things given to us. That sort of good, when bestowed on others, counteracts the ill effects of our urge to spent copious amounts of cash on things. It gives us something different, something that’s less focused on stuff and more focused on that one life-giving human trait we cannot live without.