I have never shied away from sharing my Christian faith, as imperfect as it is.  I view faith as something personal, but appropriate to share with others, as long as someone is not compelled or required to conform to as a condition for employment or citizenship. We do not have a national religion, but we are still a nation that values belief in God.       

For educators, Christmas marks the half-way point in the year.  When school returns it will be a new year:  2019.   Educators will spend a few days at home with their own family at Christmas.  It may afford them an opportunity to catch up on reading as well as a chance to finish some personal chores left untended since school started.  Christmas is a special time for family, friends and faith. 

Christmas Day is one day a year we set aside to thank God for the gift of His son.  We must all eventually ponder the meaning of the life and death of a teacher from Nazareth, Jesus Christ. For those of a different faith or even no faith, it is also an opportunity to partake in the goodwill of friends and neighbors, who may be Christian.  This time of the year should reflect the best of mankind. For Christians there are five things to consider:

  1. Miracles.  We can claim Jesus is the reason for the season, but the truth is we get lost in the busyness of the holiday.  So, it is through childlike wonder we must remember a tiny baby in a manger born in Bethlehem.  And while we fully engage in myriad of events, we do not lose focus on this miracle of Jesus Christ living among us.  He is the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.
  2. Message.  The hopeful message of Christmas is that we are not alone.  God so loved the world that he sent His son Jesus Christ into a world of sin to restore the brokenness between God and Man.  His gift of love is better than any gift found under a tree.    
  3. Meaning.  Without Jesus birth, His death could never have happened.  Jesus’ death made possible the forgiveness of sins, which in turn enables us to look forward to living and reigning with Christ in the Kingdom of God.
  4. Mission.  Our mission is to serve others, in love, and with grace.  As Eugene Peterson wrote: “Christian spirituality means living into the mature wholeness of the gospel. It means taking all the elements of your life—children, spouse, job, weather, possessions, relationships—and experiencing them as an act of faith.”
  5. Ministry.  Ministry is more than just work done by clergy. The Greek word in the New Testament that is often translated as “ministry” is diakonia. The basic meaning of this word is “service.” The ultimate example of ministry is Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus of his own free will gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. His entire life on earth, and ultimately His death on the cross, was about others.  Ministry means to serve.   

Live life by those beliefs and values. Love God. Love each other. Love the world. Love the least. Make disciples of others.  When we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives.  Mother Teresa said: “Give your hands to serve, and your hearts to love.”  That is the path forward for faith, and the “riveting, redemptive, and revolutionary story of God, who left His home to bring us home, and more profoundly, to make us His home” added Nathan Edwardson. 

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He is a lifelong educator.

As a teacher I used to keep a framed picture in my classroom which said, “Your Life is God’s gift to you. What you do with your Life is your gift to God.” I truly wish every child could hear that repeated every day. And what teachers do with their gift benefits so many children on a daily basis.

Teachers are often on the front line of the poverty battle. It is important that children know from where their gifts originate. This Thanksgiving is a good opportunity to be thankful for the gift of life we have and the gift of others in our lives.

I have worked with many faith and community organizations and it seems to me that many of the problems they seek to address have one root cause: poverty. I take the problems of global poverty much more serious, and have noticed a rise in poverty in both urban and rural America.

It is the best American tradition of helping others help themselves. Now is an opportune time for compassion and justice to help the poorest people of our nation and the world. I see a passion for compassion diminishing in America. Government simply cannot meet the needs of all citizens. Faith and community organizations need help. They need your time and effort. They need your money and support. We should embrace government partnership with faith-based organizations and other non-profit community organizations to do the work of fighting poverty and other issues.

To his credit, former President George W. Bush recognized the poverty problem when he said, “The growing divide between wealth and poverty, between opportunity and misery, is both a challenge to our compassion and a source of instability. We must confront it.” “We cannot,” said the president, “leave behind half of humanity as we seek a better future for ourselves. We cannot accept permanent poverty in a world of progress. There are no second-class citizens in the human race.”

Bono, of the rock group U2, said in an interview, “It’s an amazing thing to think that ours is the first generation in history that really can end extreme poverty, the kind that means a child dies for lack of food in its belly. This should be seen as the most incredible, historic opportunity but instead it’s become a millstone around our necks. We let our own pathetic excuses about how it’s ‘difficult’ justify our own inaction. Let’s be honest. We have the science, the technology, and the wealth. What we don’t have is the will, and that’s not a reason that history will accept.”

Poor and starving people are not particularly appealing news stories, but fighting poverty is and should be a moral imperative for citizens in our cities, state and nation. I am impressed by country music singer Tracy Lawrence, who regularly takes time of his schedule to feed the hungry in Nashville, and in other locations across the United State. Most recently Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley opened a free Nashville grocery store for those in need. That use of fame is a worthy cause that is under-reported in our country.

Faith reminds us that theological apathy is not an acceptable excuse. Yes, “the poor will always be with us.” However, Jesus, in his first sermon said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”

As we sit in our comfortable pews on Sunday morning singing about what it is like up there, we should remember that the poverty of spirit as equally lamentable to poverty of physical wealth. This Thanksgiving we should be thankful for both the small and large blessing in our lives. If you are a parent and your child is about to enter the world, it would be a great comfort to know that your country will use all of its resources to meet the most basic needs of all citizens, so they can succeed in our country.

To paraphrase an oft cited poem, “If you want to touch the face of God or His heart, it is not necessary to escape the surly bonds of Earth.” Take an interest in the things that interest God. Eliminate some of those nonessential things that clutter our lives. Recognize what is really essential: faith, family and friends. Embrace others. Treat everybody with dignity and respect. Lose control, let God love through you. Don’t fear the politicians. Hold them accountable. God will indeed hold us all accountable.

Think of those less fortunate this year before your Thanksgiving prayers, those in poverty whose plates are often empty. We are incapable of breaking the cycle of poverty without all of us working together. The number of hungry people in the world reached over 800 million, a harsh reminder that the world has yet to get serious about the challenge of ending hunger. We can make a difference, can’t we?

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

Candice-McQueen-at-appointment-press-conference

I had several news organizations call and/or email for a statement on the departure of Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen.  I hastily put together my thoughts, and wrote:

“Professional Educators of Tennessee appreciates the contributions of Commissioner Candice McQueen.  Commissioner McQueen is one of the most visible members of the Haslam Administration.   She took over the Department during a dark period in public education, and she made a significant difference within the Department, particularly in the infrastructure.  Those changes are not readily noticeable, as they include systems, processes and human capital.  There are some exceptional people within the Department of Education working to make public education a success in our state.  It is unfortunate that online testing continues to be a point of contention, but the state is moving in a positive direction.  The next Commissioner of Education and the 111th Tennessee General Assembly will need to make adjustments in student assessment as we move forward.   We will always be grateful to Commissioner McQueen for her unwavering support of increasing teacher salaries and commitment to student literacy.  These are incredible legacies to leave as she departs her critical role serving the citizens of Tennessee, and we wish Commissioner McQueen much success in her new role.   We look forward to working with Governor-elect Bill Lee and offering input on a successor.”

That’s what professionals do.  We issue statements and offer public comments about people and issues.  There is a right way and a wrong way to do that task.  In an era where we seemingly delight in lack of civility and negative tone of politics, we must take the high road.   We are polarized as a country, not because we are afraid to discuss issues of substance, but rather we cannot talk to each other in a respectful manner.  It’s easier for some to just be what my mom used to classify as “rude, crude and uncalled for.”  In the end, we merely see who can be the loudest in the room, and end up talking over each other.

What does that have to do with a statement on the Departure of a Haslam Cabinet official?  Simple, it brings out the ugly.  And I have seen some mean-spirited people critical of Commissioner McQueen, as she moves into the next phase of her career.  Most of those being critical are clueless.  To paraphrase Shakespeare, “In a battle of wits, they are unarmed.”

Tupac Shakur said, “Behind every sweet smile, there is a bitter sadness that no one can ever see and feel.” I spent time with Commissioner McQueen as more than a casual observer. Her heart and passion were always for the children and teachers in Tennessee.  She fought battles which nobody knew about and which, despite the lofty title in front of her name, she had little control.  While we didn’t always agree on every issue, it was always a discussion she was willing to have with me, as well as others. She made it a priority to discuss teacher issues with me regularly, and as needed as frequently as possible.  That alone will always endear her to the teachers who were included in those discussions.

Candice McQueen is a woman of faith.  That is an element that we need more of in public service.  She didn’t wield her faith as a sword, but you knew that she was a believer in Jesus Christ.  She had a preference for ideas over politics.  She chose principle over popularity.  She took ownership of a testing debacle, that she had inherited and didn’t even pick the people who oversaw it.  She could have easily laid blame elsewhere.  She chose not to do that.  She wisely fired a failed testing company.   She was not a seasoned politician.  If you recall legislative hearings, she sat there and took valid criticism of a flawed system.  However, that critique often crossed the line personally.

Candice McQueen symbolized the hope for a more decent and gentler public servant, willing to acknowledge faults in a system—and personally owning them.  Whereas Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here,” McQueen also took ownership while at the same time working to correct the issues.  (Much like building an airplane while at the same time trying to fly it.)  She did this while remaining optimistic and energetic.  From first-hand knowledge, I know she frequently started her work day before 6:00 AM and often finished it after 9:00 PM, even though she was a mother and wife.  Commissioner McQueen will be missed.

As far as the next Commissioner of Education goes, I imagine it will be much harder to fill her shoes than most people realize.  The next Commissioner must make sure she/he has direct access to the new Governor, with complete authority to make changes as needed.  The Governor, not the Commissioner of Education, must fight the legislative battles.  We need a true public servant we can also work with, who understands Tennessee and our educators.

The beautiful thing about legacies is that time is a fair-minded judge.  I suspect that Candice McQueen, like Lana Seivers who served years before her, will be seen as a Commissioner who helped build a modern Department of Education which meets the needs of districts, educators, parents and children.  Tennessee is moving forward in education, and we all should be proud of our accomplishments.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech to those assembled at the conclusion of the march from Selma to Montgomery.   He told the audience “truth crushed to earth will rise again.” Then he added, “no lie can live forever.”  King also reminded the crowd: “because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The driving force of Martin Luther King’s philosophy was the certain idea that Jesus is the truth. He believed that and he spoke of it in most of his public speeches.  King wasn’t a politician arousing a crowd with inferences to God, he was a minister evoking Christ to connect to issues facing the world.  Whether or not you agree with his worldview, he was who he was—a believer in Jesus Christ.

Like Dr. King, I don’t pretend to be anything I am not.  I have lived a full life and made mistakes.  I am comforted by my own faith in Christ.  I see the moral and earthly struggles faced by others and understand but by the Grace of God, there goes I.  It shows up in my work as executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  It shows up in my drive to make our organization the best association for educators in Tennessee. I have compassion for our members and the difficult job they do, and have the empathy that educators need.  But it is a two-way street.  So many teachers and administrators call and encourage me.  They appreciate our work for them and they share their success stories in education.  It cannot help but inspire me, as well as others.  Educators see miracles every single day.

Too many in our state and nation believe the lie that public education is failing.  Do we have failures?  Yes, there are things that go wrong every single day.  But looking at the big picture, the arc of the universe, as King may say, it is a beautiful success story.  Children are dropped off at a school, unable to read and write, growing up in some of the worst conditions possible.  They come from crime riddled neighborhoods, drug infested homes, often being raised by single parents and some, with no parents.  Many have no responsible adults in the picture.  Food and shelter are uncertain.  Yet teachers, some who may be unconnected themselves, make an impact that helps that child survive for a day, a week, a month and then a year.  Somehow, those children grow up.  Then the miracle they see is that the child becomes a productive citizen capable of thinking for themselves.  They didn’t become a statistic.  They didn’t die.

We all get angry.  Even God repeatedly describes himself in Scripture as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”  However, too often anger produces in us, “quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.” It also produces “enmity, strife . . . fits of anger [i.e. tantrums], rivalries, dissensions, [and] divisions.” We must balance that personally and professionally.  We must avoid the negative.  There is no perfect anger.  We should allow mercy to triumph over judgment for others, and we must remain committed to love.

When I deal with angry teachers I am reminded frequently of another lie, that anger solves problems.   We see that manifested when administrators are angry at teachers or vice-versa.  We see it on full display from teacher unions.  They really believe dissension and division resolves issues; it doesn’t. That is why we see hostility, anger, slander and gossip on frequent display from them.  I have been subjected to regular attacks personally, often based on little or no truth by paid union stalkers.  Because of my faith, I am able to persevere.  I get to witness the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice.  Truth will eventually prevail.   It is a beautiful reminder that no lie can live forever.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

Alinsky-dedication

There is no doubt that the “community organizing” methods and philosophy developed by Saul Alinsky have had a penetrating effect on our politics. However, has it made government more responsive or improved results for citizens?  That is highly doubtful.

What happens when Saul Alinsky and his tactics do not go far enough for you?

We are probably about to find out. There are seemingly no longer limits to acceptable behavior in society, no moral conscience for some people and Alinsky’s radical “methods” are now the new normal. Combined with the usual Orwellian double-speak from those trained in Alinsky tactics. They can attract the gullible.

Alinsky famously referenced his admiration for Lucifer in his book Rules for Radicals. I really do not care to speculate what the motivation was; it is in front of the book.  Alinsky adhered to a Marxist ideology.  People should read Rules for Radicals for themselves.  Some of the rules that are often cited, and are subsequently employed regularly are:

  • “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  • “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
  • “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
  • “Pick the target, freeze it, person­alize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not instit­utions; people hurt faster than instit­utions.

The objective of most community organizers is to inject politics into every issue, every debate. It is dangerous to induce immoral and scrupulous tactics solely for political gain for the “militant minority.”  One overarching goal is never-ending conflict.  They simply move from issue to issue.

The reaction community organizers seek: is to identify activists, who can build a larger, more robust militant minority within organizations they control.  This warped strategy leaves the majority of people in organizations impacted by community organizers pushing this radical agenda underserved.   This approach is why so many labor unions are dying, as they only exist to serve the excessively bureaucratic union leadership.  This leadership often encompasses a socialist agenda at odds with a majority of the members.

The question for all of us, is how far is too far? In the world of Alinsky, “organizing” is simply the revolution.  Who leads the revolution?  The community organizers who control the radicals/militant minority will be the leaders.  And for many, Alinsky is just a stepping stone for the next wave of issues that will emerge.  And the organizer knows that there can be no action until those “issues are polarized.”  There is no solution possible, when conflict never ends.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

Christmas Story Metaphor

“Peace on earth, and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled.”

I hope that everyone is preparing to have a special holiday season this year with their friends and family, those loved ones who complete our lives.  This truly is one of the most extraordinary times of the year. Most of us are reminded it really is more fun to give than to receive. If you have children, it is an attitude you are forced to adopt.

I am most grateful for all the military and civilians serving our country away from home this year.  We are blessed to have young men and women willing to risk their lives so that we can be free, as well as safe and secure.  I wish for peace and harmony in the world and the eventual safe return of all our troops from foreign lands after their brave service to our country. It is clear to all rational people that diffusing terrorists and their rhetoric is necessary for freedom to truly prosper in the world. These brave leaders are merely following in the footsteps of our founding fathers.

The late Paul Harvey identified that all other of the world’s revolutions before and since were initiated by men who had nothing to lose.  The founders of this great experiment had everything to lose… nothing to gain…. except one thing…. and  they pledged it to one another in the Declaration of Independence:  “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

The inspiration of yesterday still inspires us today: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  To the memory of the patriots who paved the way during those tumultuous times, to the patriots who live today and the patriots yet to be born:  May your holidays always be filled with good times, good cheer. May health and happiness be yours in all seasons!

I wish all families had an opportunity this Christmas to spend time with the ones they truly love, whether they are halfway around the world or simply across the street. Love is the greatest gift of all.  I wish for my own family, as well as yours that this Christmas they can observe true love that lasts a lifetime beyond that reflected by our world.  If you want a magical holiday season, give yourself in love beyond what you traditional are willing to surrender.  Seize the opportunity and have the courage to tell those around you how much you care and appreciate them.

In today’s rushed society this holiday we should make every effort and encourage our friends and family as well as ourselves to reduce the many unnecessary obligations, pervasive card writing, never-ending baking, excessive decorating and needless overspending. Sharing quality time with family and friends is unmistakably more important than finding yourself severely exhausted, unable to appreciate those you love or even missing the true meaning of Christmas.

Maybe this explains why so many people have difficulty getting into the “spirit of Christmas.”  The self-imposed exhaustion, coupled with the fact that merchants have now extended the holiday season to well before Thanksgiving probably leads to Christmas fatigue and loss of spiritual significance.  This also means another holiday has lost meaning, of course maybe it is my heart that is in the wrong place.

The brave men and women who so eagerly wait for peace in the battles they fight for our security yearn for the peace at home, and peace on earth.  Let’s begin by bringing peace to our homes.  Peace on earth, which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after, can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent adherence to the divinely established order.

We are reminiscent of the Prophet Isaiah who wrote centuries ago: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).  It is true that Christmas, the day in which we celebrate the birth of Christ, probably is not an accurate reflection of the birthday of our savior.  But anyone who seeks the true peace and lasting joy needs to reflect on the babe of Bethlehem and the sacrifice for sinners he was to become.

I am now more determined than ever to celebrate Christmas, appreciate my family and friends and remember those that risked their lives, fortunes and honor so that I could do those things.  For those that are angry year round, let this holiday season be an exception.  If you need to reconcile with anybody, friend or foe, make this Christmas an opportunity to do so.  As Charles Spurgeon preached many years ago: “May God give you peace with yourselves; may he give you good will towards all your friends, your enemies, and your neighbors; and may he give you grace to give glory to God in the highest.”

I wish you the happiest Christmas you ever had.  I hope that you have a memorable holiday and a wonderful time with those you love.  I also wish you have a safe and happy and prosperous New Year’s as well.

We should strive to be kind and affectionate to others.  If we always lived every day at peace with God, it would be the merriest Christmas we ever experience in all our lives every day in our heart.  As my wise mother, Linda Bowman Lawhorn used to remind us “he who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree.”  Jesus is the reason for the season.  But really he is the reason for every season.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

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“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

It appears that 2017 has been a long year for many people, and 2018 promises even more of the same problems with even more politics. That is usually not a good recipe for success. However, if there is any lesson to be learned it is that we should endeavor to get the most out of life, use our God-given talent and our abilities, be loyal, love our friends and family, and honor God. We should not simply strive to be common, but seek to be remarkable. Your life is God’s gift to you. What you do in life, is your gift to God.  Teachers understand this more than most.

This Christmas season we will undoubtedly hear the story of God’s love taking the form of man and coming down to earth. There is much more to that story. But what is amazing to me is the role that women played in the life of Jesus. The old saying is that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Rodgers and Hammerstein added another twist: the hand that rocks the cradle rules the heart. Either way, women have played such a critical role in the world, often unrecognized by the very people who have experienced their influence. Invisible to the naked eye, true leadership is in the womb, the breast, the hands, and the soul of woman.

A mother has the most difficult task, for she must take a young, impressionable human being, and emphasize in their young life the things they must learn and experience, the hurt they will inevitably feel, the sadness – this is a difficult task a mother must do. It takes a tremendous amount of strength, patience, and moral fiber to give birth, raise, and eventually let go of, a child. My mother did an unbelievable job, in a difficult situation with a strong-willed child. I am the man I am today because of the woman she is. I am a living testament to her encouragement, love and yes discipline. She instilled in me a passion to believe in myself and to do what is right, even when others around you do what is wrong. More importantly she gave me the desire to live my life with intention. What a beautiful gift to give.

Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, wrote the poem “On Children.” Here is what he said: “You may give your children your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”

I love that thought that Gibran expresses, but I differ with him: I do think we can dream that brighter future for our children. I hope that it is a future filled with hope. I wish for peace and harmony in the world and the eventual safe return of all our troops from foreign lands. In 1983 I was deployed and wasn’t home with my family during the Christmas holiday.   It was an incredibly lonely time.

I would wish that all families had an opportunity this Christmas to spend time with the ones they truly love, whether they are halfway around the world or simply across the street. Love is the greatest gift of all. If you want a magical holiday season, give yourself in love beyond what you traditionally are willing to surrender. Seize the opportunity and have the courage to tell those around you how much you care and appreciate them.

Jesus is the reason for the season. But really he is the reason for every season. The old adage “he who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree” is pretty accurate. So, from our team at Professional Educators of Tennessee to your family, we wish you an enjoyable Holiday Season and an even happier 2018!

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

Singing the blues away

You remind yourself that the holidays are supposed to be a time of happiness, gathering of friends and family and most importantly optimism for the coming New Year. Yet you get inundated with reminders of the holidays that may conjure up unresolved issues like grief caused by a missing friend or family member, your own failing health or that of a friend or family member. Sometimes there is a sense of increased isolation and loneliness or recognition that there is a difference between the perception of holiday joy and the reality of one’s own life. Holidays can take a toll on even the happiest person.

From now until after the first of 2018 more than likely your life will be busier and certainly more stressful. You will have more things to do, more things to buy, there will be more traffic in our streets, stores will become more crowded, parking will become more difficult, and you will have your patience tried to the extreme waiting longer for service. Guests in your house will further add to your frustration. Heaven forbid if some person accidentally sits in your seat at your place of worship. The additional demands on our time, attention, energy and finances can be very traumatic. All of these issues come to a head during the holiday season. You want love or something like it.

Remind yourself all these issues can help you develop a strategy to tackle this short period of time. Most people struggle with holidays at some point in their lives. Just as we often struggle with life itself. It requires effort to overcome any problem. Recognition of our own thoughts and feelings helps us be successful in being triumphant over even the worst of times.

We begin our adult life with idealistic dreams of running off into the sunset, chasing whatever it is that makes us happy. We hope we are fortunate enough to reach those goals set by our youthful optimism. But for many of us we also learn we can only run so far before reality sets in. We must be extremely careful that we do not turn this optimism into pessimism, or even worse cynicism. This cynicism is often couched in anger and we hear or see the wounded cries. People become blinded by their own pessimism, then cynical of everything but their own cynicism.

Part of what makes us human is the ability to project into the future. However, do not believe for one moment you can find redemption by escaping your situation. Life is never really easy or is it? Are we not the ones who complicate it? When we complicate it do we become our own victims?

Perhaps the best scientific exploration of optimism, an incredible research study thirty-five years in the making entitled “Pessimistic Explanatory Style as a Risk Factor for Physical Illness: A Thirty-five Year Longitudinal Study”, J Person Soc Psych 55 (1988): 23-7, by C. Peterson, M. Seligman, and G. Vaillant, three main findings were established:

  1. Optimists live longer than pessimists;
  2. Optimists suffer from fewer and less severe diseases;
  3. Optimists are much healthier than pessimists.

Some of the benefits of being an optimist according to research are that we know that we will receive greater health benefits, higher quality of life–manifested by greater success, greater happiness and greater love. So, this holiday season take the time to revisit your own priorities for life. Hold on to your dreams. Never give up on thinking what was and what is and what can be. Yes we can all be winners in good times and survivors during the hard times.

If we want to relieve the tremendous stress on friends and family structures, we must make a positive commitment this holiday season to help others, as well as ourselves. We must all become promoters for hope. We need to work together to prevent symptoms of depression and anxiety from dominating our community this holiday season. We need a positive environment to help our children enjoy this most sacred season, and we all have a role to play to make sure those around us remain emotionally stable and use effective coping skills.

This holiday season take an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. When churches, synagogues, mosques, businesses, and governments collaborate, impressive things can happen to cause productive change in communities and among individuals. The impact could be of a global magnitude.

Like many I have learned what the power of faith can accomplish in an individual life. In addition, faith has traditionally played a crucial role in shaping both American institutions and civil society, and America has thrived as a model of democracy and equality precisely because of this pervasive religiosity and the traditions it helped establish. The abundance of faith based voices in the public square does not mean that the issues of the day will suddenly vanish. But the inclusion of faith based organization’s views and voices does allow communities to explore areas of consensus that are often overlooked. It provides the faith based community the opportunity to do what it does best, serving others and expanding its role in serving society.

Remember to make this a holiday season to remember. To somebody you may be just the gift they need. Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr often shared this prayer with people, and it helps remind me when I face depression.

The Serenity Prayer

 God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference;

 Living one day at a time;

 Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it:

Trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2018, and stay positive!

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.