December is known for Santa and mistletoe, a magical time of joy that is the Christmas season. However, those who have made December 2012 a living nightmare in some respects must not have gotten the memo.
The major event marring this holiday period, of course, has been the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. And I’d love to have a nickel for every time that the term “fiscal cliff” has been mentioned this month — which would underwrite the costs of my Christmas lists for many years to come.
But the tragedy in Connecticut and the continuing train wreck better known as our federal bureaucracy are matched by troubling incidents here in Surry County which have added even more notoriety to what’s shaping up as a dismal December overall.
First on the evening of Dec. 10, a 78-year-old woman died along U.S. 52 when a car in which she was a passenger left the roadway near Cook School Road, struck a guardrail, crashed down an embankment and landed in the Ararat River. Those circumstances were bad enough, but even more troubling was the fact that authorities believe the vehicle carrying the victim was forced off the highway in an act of road rage.
I suppose the person responsible for that situation didn’t receive the memo, either.
Then last Saturday night came another terrible event in which a car driven by a 15-year-old who was fleeing from a police officer went out of control at a curve on Carter Street in Mount Airy and wrecked, killing her 9-year-old-brother.
At a time when the respective families left behind from these fatalities should be reveling in the warmth of the holidays, they are having to cope with terrible losses from which they will never fully recover.
Along with those high-profile events have come the usual residential and business break-ins that tend to spike this time of the year, the major drug busts and other crimes. Such activity prompted Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson to remark the other day that the bad guys just don’t take many days off.
The fact that Christmas is upon us also hasn’t kept people from being sick and dying, judging by the filled obituary pages all around the area.
And despite what the calendar says, creditors still want their money and prices continue to be high for necessities such as food and fuel. (The financial realities will be even more evident in January when the credit card bills start arriving from Christmastime purchases — after the mistletoe will have long since turned brown and the decorations packed away for another year.)
Meanwhile, American troops continue remain in harm’s way in Afghanistan, there’s still unrest in the Middle East and people are starving all around the globe.
The notably good thing that has happened involves the fact that the world didn’t come to an end this week as the Mayans had predicted.
Yet perhaps there is something else positive to be salvaged from this month of turmoil both locally and elsewhere. It has forced us to recognize what’s really important in life.
We have been painfully reminded that the true magic of this season is not something to be seen in a department store window or hanging from a tree. Those are merely fleeting illusions that will fade away, not unlike the light from a holiday display that is unplugged on New Year’s Day.
The real value of Christmas can be found only in the heart and doesn’t have a bar code or price tag attached, which is the love to be shared among families and friends. There also is the reason this season is being celebrated in the first place, which is the birth of Christ.
The tragedies that have unfolded reinforce the need to count our blessings and remember that lasting happiness is not something available in a mall.
Fortunately, the season has been marked by more than commercialism and stress, including local efforts such as Toys for Tots, the many programs operated by The Salvation Army, the Shop With a Cop program and other activities to aid the less fortunate.
Maybe such acts of goodness and the pay-it-forward philosophy involved will provide the beneficiaries, especially children, with an awareness that there are people who care and there’s reason for hope. May those young people grow up with a positive attitude that helps them overcome their unfortunate circumstances.
And Thursday’s announcement that an Illinois company will open a textile plant in Mount Airy and eventually employ 45 people could signal a turnaround for a dismal economic situation locally which has lasted for years
If we’ve learned anything this December, it’s that all the mistletoe on the planet won’t ward off evil, but that the world can be changed like starfish on a beach — one kind act at a time.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.