December / 2000
From The Editor

Joyful traditions
by:  

Last December I stood against the wall of my daughter's elementary school cafeteria along with dozens of other camera-toting parents. Islands of kindergarten through fifth-grade class members covered the floor, ready for the winter holiday music program.

One by one each class stood to sing about the Christian Christmas, or the Jewish Chanukah Festival of Lights, or the Kwanzaa African harvest and unity festival, or the Asian new year.

A few days later I rode in a horse-drawn carriage through downtown Louisville to an annual Christmas concert. (I can't say for sure whether there were snow flurries, but that's how I choose to remember the ride.) Inside the hall, the choir and orchestra played Duke Ellington's Nutcracker, sang Chanukah songs, and ended with the audience joining in on old favorite Christmas carols.

During one of the Chanukah songs it occurred to me what a wonderful job we're doing in this country of trying to get along with each other. And how the harder we try, the more we succeed.

News reports describe battles over Nativity scenes in public places or about how there's no room for Christmas in the schools. That elementary school concert reminded me that the thing about news is that it reports the unusual. What's more common is that in this country we're continuing to learn to celebrate our differences. We are celebrating Christmas in the schools. We're also respecting and celebrating our diversity and individuality.

Oh sure, it takes more effort to include everyone. Just like it takes a bit more work to make buildings wheelchair-accessible. It's worth the effort, and it makes all of us richer.

These attempts to celebrate our differences are sometimes mocked as silly exercises in political correctness. But there's another, more old-fashioned phrase for working to get along with all of our neighbors. It's called being polite.

And that's what we're doing. In our families and neighborhoods, places of worship, at fancy concert halls, and in school cafeterias. Our seasonal singing shows us at our best. It's a way of lighting a candle in the window, inviting everyone passing by to a joyful tradition of the heart and soul.