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Spread Holiday Blessings This Year

North Carolina youth within the juvenile justice system share holidays with facility staff and family members.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018 - 4:35pm

 ‘Tis the season for love, fellowship and coming together. It’s the time we tally our blessings and hope for more in the future. I write with a bit of reflection, a forecast and, as we live together in communities across the state, a call to mission – to find harmony with our neighbors and lift up those who may have been saddled with misfortune during this year of 2018.

I can say with a high level of certainty that two types of events bring people closer to one another: tragedies and holidays. North Carolinians experienced their share of tragedies this year, including two devastating, back-to-back hurricanes that brought wind and rain across the state. We were all affected in some way by those storms. Yet soaked to the bone, we banded together as we always do to show the strength of our resolve. Our neighbors once again came to stand with us, showing that collective human spirit during a tragedy unites people without the encumbrance of borders.

As for the holidays, it’s obvious why we come together during a time of cheer and celebration. Happy times to share. Tucked in amongst Black Friday shopping, company gatherings, colorful decorations and lights are the end-of-year holidays. A number of celebrations captivate the scene, including Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas (Advent). There are also lesser-known December celebrations such as Boxing Day, Letter Day and of course Festivus… for the rest of us.

In my home, the transformation from normal, everyday household to holiday craft store, occurs the day after Thanksgiving. While I don’t have any actual, substantive proof, I theorize that Christmas decorations multiply in the attic when nobody is watching them for 11 months. (Yes, Mr. Nutcracker, I have my eyes on you from here on out.) Holiday movies are now tuned in 24/7 and I happened to catch one of my favorites the other evening, Love Actually. Though a bit non-traditional, the opening sequence always strikes a chord in me, probably because every other month of the year TV seems to ingrain the world’s downfalls in me:

 

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion is starting to make out, that we live in a world of hatred and greed. But I don’t see that. Seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there.  Fathers and sons. Mothers and daughters. Husbands and wives. Boyfriends. Girlfriends. Old friends. When the planes hit the twin towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge. They were all messages of love. If you look for it, I have a sneaky feeling you’ll find love actually… is… all around.”     Hugh Grant

 

This monologue slaps me in the face every twelfth month of the year and says, “People really do have the potential to care about one another, even if we fail to exhibit those traits most of the time.”

As we hustle to and from celebrations this season, let us also think about those who may be afraid - or alone - or away from home during the holidays. 1985 was the first (and only) time I have ever been away from family at Christmas, while attending basic training in San Antonio, Texas. At 19 years-old, I remember there were a lot of homesick young men and women. To raise spirits my fellow squad leaders and I risked serious punishment – by sneaking out of the barracks after lights-out on Christmas Eve and trekking across the base to the BX. We purchased bags and bags of candy and treats. After making the equally risky trip back to the barracks, we filled the boots of the other recruits with the loot and retired to bed. As the drill sergeant made his normal 5 a.m. strides down the center aisle, asking who had broken the rules – he already knew, as we had forgotten to fill our own during the mission. The gesture went unpunished, and while it was a small token, it was not insignificant.

North Carolina Juvenile Justice has a similar scenario during the holidays. Youthful offenders who are no doubt missing the opportunity to be with family and friends, enjoying the holiday festivities and more. Staff members working at the various types of facilities and programs do their utmost to provide some normalcy during the season, but it also helps to have others in the community contribute time and resources for these kids.

Thus, let me offer some inspiration where it matters most - by way of the team of the juvenile justice professionals from District 16. On Dec. 3, the Court Services staff and youth celebrated Christmas with members of the Hyde Park Baptist Church in Lumberton. Started more than 30 years ago, this congregation has annually hosted the evening of fellowship as part of their outreach mission. Supporting and strengthening the well-being of kids in the local neighborhood – starts in the neighborhood. This year’s event included dinner, live musical entertainment and uplifting speeches. The juveniles were also grateful for the Christmas gifts provided by church members for them to open. Spending time with people is such a small gesture, but one which brings people together and puts smiles on faces.

The point I’m making is there are plentiful reasons (and opportunities) for setting differences aside and finding ways to truly connect with fellow human beings in a meaningful way. It’s now December, and this early shot of winter weather has somehow made the atmosphere seem more, well, holiday-like. No matter how insignificant you think it may be, the season is upon us to bring some joy and happiness to others. Don’t let the opportunity to make a real impact in someone’s life pass you by. Before last year’s New Year’s resolution about being a better, more charitable person makes way for the coming year’s promise to be a more giving individual in 2019, find a simple way to make a genuine difference in someone’s life through spreading some holiday blessings.

Author: 
Matt Jenkins, Communications Officer