No one wants to think about difficult things so close to Christmas. On a festive canvas of red, green, gold and silver, the darker colours just don't 'fit.' Ask anyone who has lost a job or a loved one, or received a cancer diagnosis. Many will say it's something they keep to themselves until well after the festivities are over.
It's no one's fault that we struggle to retain perspective. Listening to the holiday songs on the radio, hope rules, peace prevails, and comfort is abundant! There's no room for devastation, loneliness and anguish. Even the songs where someone is hurting seem to come out right in the end.
The trouble is, darkness doesn't go away during the Holidays. If anything, it can feel deeper, more acute. Perhaps that's why we work so hard to brighten things up with lights and candles, and reach out to those who are in need. Sometimes, a little extra care can make all the difference to a friend or neighbor in need.
Embracing a hurting world
But what about the rest of our planet, the world beyond Canada's shores? News headlines from places like Aleppo, Syria, continue to scream out into the silent night. If you've been living in Aleppo, pain and darkness have been year-round affairs.
It's so easy to feel despair, to relate to the words in the old Christmas carol: "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," based on the 1863 poem by American Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said.
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men..."
No peace in Syria
For years, our hearts have been broken by the conflict in Syria. And as we near the holiday season, the images of children who have been hurt and even targeted by the violence, especially in Aleppo, seem almost too much to bear.
I read today that dozens of orphans are part of the ongoing evacuation from the besieged city. These little ones won't be sitting on Santa's knee this week, or opening their eyes in a home filled with love and toys this Sunday morning. It's too much to consider without feeling desperately guilty, or raggedly heartbroken.
So perhaps that's why we try to 'switch off' the darkness this week every year. But the pain can be so formidable that even our strings of bright holiday lights don't stand a chance.
The courage to feel pain
There is another option, although it takes some courage: We can continue to feel. And despite what seem like overwhelming odds, we can choose hope -- hope that conflicts like the war in Syria can find a peaceful resolution, perhaps even this year.
We can also choose to offer hope and comfort to families in crisis around the world -- including Syrian families. We can do this confidently, knowing that help like ours can -- and does -- make a difference.
Since the beginning of the conflict, World Vision has been on the ground, supporting the people of Syria with humanitarian aid. Because of help from Canadians like you, we've provided millions of Syrian refugees with things like clean water, medicine, remedial education, and counselling support for children who've lived through the unthinkable.
Sometimes, our insistence in remembering what's possible is like a candle in the darkness. Here are three ways you can help:
1) Light a candle, send a picture: This week, World Vision is inviting Canadians to join others around the world and light a candle for Syria. Take a picture of your lit candle, then post on social media using the hashtag #Candle4Syria and tag us @worldvisioncan. In this way, we will show the people of Syria, and our government, that we remember, and that we demand peace.
2) Add your voice to the Canadians who are demanding that Canada play a bigger role in the Syrian peace process, by signing this petition.
3) Give a gift by making a donation, either one-time or monthly, to help children in dangerous places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and others. World Vision's Raw Hope initiative is a good place to start.
Even at Christmas - especially at Christmas - we can face the darkness with clenched fists and determined hearts, remembering the final verse of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day".
"Then peeled the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."