I love Christmas.
Well, I guess I love the feeling of Christmas, since I’m not all that religious.
I love how the world comes alive with generosity and love. How people act a little softer toward one another. How we all find ways to celebrate what we are thankful for. The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas ( which includes Chanukah, Diwali, and Eid as well) really reminds me that there is hope in this world.
But, the holiday season is rough on all teachers, and I am not an exception. It is in this season that it’s most difficult to talk about my job.
No-one wants to talk about the pervasiveness of white privilege, or be reminded that for many, the holiday season is a is more bleak than anything. Most people don’t want to discuss the commonalities between the Jewish, Islamic and Christian holy days. They don’t want to hear about my students, because they’re all “foreign” and they put a human story to the “immigration debate” people are so found of bringing up.
They want to be happy, to experience the magic of the holidays, and so do I.
I’ve never been afraid to state my opinion, but I am finding it more and more difficult not lash out (in person or via social media) at the biased comments and broad generalizations about groups of people that come with the recent hurt in this world.
I find myself having a hard time being able to compartmentalize.
We’ve just passed the three year anniversary of the Sandyhook “Shooting” (I have no idea why the news media doesn’t call this a terrorist attack, but I digress). Three years since I walked into school knowing that my students would be scared and that I would have to be strong for them. Three years ago that I told the truth to my city, non-white students… that they were safe in school because statistically white, middle class men shoot up schools.
A week later I drove to my hometown and was asked five times if I was worried about my safety in the “ghetto” school I taught in.
I work at a different school than I did 3 years ago, but the hurt of my job doesn’t change just because my location has.
A few weeks ago I watched as the world stood by France after the terrorist attacks on Paris. Peoples’ Facebook photos mirrored the French flag, the news outlets reminded us that France was one of our most favored military allies and monuments all over the world lit up with the French colors.
I watched my Facebook feed fill up with hateful, anti-Muslim nonsense. I listened to my students tell me that their families were afraid to leave the house because they’ve been harassed. And I wasn’t surprised when Egypt, Lebanon and Bangladesh — three countries which also had major terrorist attacks that week — didn’t get anywhere near the kind of response the French did.
How can I possibly pretend that I don’t see that the holiday spirit extends only so far as skin color or class or religion for so many people in my life?
And so, Christmas is at the same time wonderful and wonderfully difficult for this teacher.
However, it seems that the holiday spirit has found a way to me regardless of all of the hurt that I see.
For the past five years “Santa” has sent me a gift card with an inspirational quote about teaching affirming that teachers jobs are not as thankless as we believe.
The first year I was ecstatic and tried like crazy to figure out who had sent it, but as the years have gone by, I’ve learned to appreciate the gift for what it really is; a reminder that Santa really does exist, just like the editor of the Baltimore Sun told Virginia over 100 years ago.
How dreary is the world when we forget about Santa? He represents the faith, the poetry, and the romance that make tolerable our existence.
He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist in this world.
This year I have decided not to look for Santa, but instead help him (or her) spread their message this year.
Although I won’t call myself by the same name, the gift given to me may now give others a bit of hope this year. It is, after all, my job to make sure that eternal light with which childhood fills the world is never extinguished.
I will make sure that I teach tolerance and understanding to my daughter and my children at school.
I will make sure that the holiday spirit extends to all of my students, regardless of their religion.
I will continue to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, for the power of my voice may be the greatest gift I have to give.
No Santa Claus!? Thank god he lives! He lives in the amazing hearts of those brave enough to believe the future can be changed.