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Your Turn: December celebrates faith, family and friends

The first thing which comes to mind for most people as the month of December begins is Christmas or a similar holiday for other faiths and races. What all such holidays have in common is the virtue of faith. Family and friends are the other two aspects of life that these holidays share.

People of various stations in life have written about faith. The words of theologian Reinhold Neibuhr, who was also a commentator on public affairs, illustrate an interesting combination of the spiritual and the secular: “Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith.”

Scientist Edward Teller’s words became especially relevant in recent years. “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”

As a teacher of literature for more than 30 years, I usually turn to the stories of authors for statements or illustrations of faith. Four authors whose stories dramatize faith, not in a religious sense but in a human context, are Truman Capote, William Sidney Porter (whose pen name was O. Henry), Charles Dickens and Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

Capote’s story “A Christmas Memory” is an autobiographical account of the relationship between a young boy and his aging aunt, who are family and each other’s best friends. Their time spent together during the Christmas season provides the fondest memories of his life. His faith is shaken when he realizes that “this might be the last Christmas we spent together.”

O. Henry’s story “The Gift of the Magi” is not about the men in the Bible but about a young couple who give up their most prized possessions to buy something for each other for Christmas. Theirs is a gift of faith. The unexpected result of their unselfishness strengthens their love for each other.

Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” illustrates, through its protagonist Scrooge, the secular theme that it is never too late to change a lifetime of suffering and selfishness. It is never too late to become a better person by helping others, whether family or friends or strangers.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss also illustrates the theme that change is always possible, if you open your heart to others.

As the final month of the calendar year and the beginning of winter, December has a dark side as well as a festive one. The darkest day of the year, the day with the fewest hours of sunlight, arrives in December. The bright colors of autumn are gone. “The winter of our discontent” descends upon many of us.

Which brings us back to faith. Without faith that a new year is coming, which everyone hopes will be better than the last one, December would be a more difficult month to survive. Without friends and family, December would be a more difficult month to navigate.

Jim Izzo is a retired teacher living in Mystic.

Your Turn is a chance for readers to submit photos and stories. To contribute, email times@theday.com.

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