Coming to terms with the Season of Joy in a post-Sandy world

Oscar was about seven, sitting in front of the computer looking at something he desperately wanted on the screen, when he determined what he absolutely needed: one million dollars.

Then he stopped, cocked his head slightly, and began shaking it. He was having a revelation.

“No,” he said. “Because if I had a million dollars, there would be nothing left to want.”

He’d figured out — without even a hint from me — that deprivation fuels appreciation. And this post-Hurricane Sandy holiday season, during the so-called “Season of Joy,” Mother Nature certainly reminded us of that fact.

I think the ads during the holidays make us believe that having everything will make us happy. And we believe it. But it isn’t true.

Sure, a thing can enhance one’s life. But it is not one thing, nor a series of things, that is crucial.

It is in the image of the happy world that will ensue when our things are placed around us that brings about happiness. And it is the appreciation of those things that gives us pleasure.

That’s what Oscar figured out.

During the past few Seasons of Joy, I haven’t felt so joyous. I couldn’t, in good faith, belt out carols or hand out gifts. I was a bit of a Humbug, mostly.

But this year I feel differently.

Post-Hurricane Sandy, I feel blessed with who and what I have. I feel lucky and appreciative. I feel happy to be headed into a season where people can so directly do things to thank others for their very existence.

This year, while walks unveil the power the oceans unleashed on our beachfront neighbors, it seems somehow fitting to indulge. Fur is all the rage even while the economy stagnates. Cars are getting bigger even while energy and fuel efficiency is on everyone’s minds. It seems that when we’re afraid we’ll lose everything, we feel the need to amass more.

My mother-in-law has always inspired me with her ability to proclaim every evening, be it a birthday or Thanksgiving or Christmas, “the best ever!” There have been some evenings I may not have agreed, but I still begrudgingly admired her ability to believe. By believing, after all, we can make it so. We show we are willing to work to make it so, be it buying a lovely thing, or saying a nice thing, or both.

I will try not to go overboard with the stockings this year, given that I am in a great mood to spread joy to my children.

Materialism can run rampant in times of great appreciation and while I believe that Mayor Giuliani was dead on to say “go shopping” after 9-11, there is still something to be said for penury and putting things in perspective.

But I am in a mood to celebrate life and show those around them how much I love and appreciate them and the world we live in.

Oscar’s right. We don’t need a million dollars. But those little things we find ourselves craving this year will mean a little bit more.

And that would make it the best Season of Joy ever.

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