By Don Rush

Yup, it’s November, and I usually wait until we’re closer to Thanksgiving before I start preaching all the love and kumbaya stuff. You know, be nice, love one another, scooby, dooby, doo. However, after what happened in Oxford almost a year ago, I reckoned it was more betterer to start soonerer (kids don’t write this way in school, your teachers won’t dig it and it will be reflected in poor grades).

The tragedy that happened at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021 has taken its toll on the Oxford community. Yes, there has been healing. But, people are still hurting.

The loss of life and the loss of security are real. The pain, anger and frustration many in Oxford feel is very real. I’ll tell you, even from a distance the editing, observing, watching school board meetings, writing about that event and the aftermath and reading about it, has affected me a little, too. Yes, I’ve been “yelled” at for some of the things our newspaper has reported on. I read the criticisms, take them to heart, mull my emotions around a little bit, shove them in a box and store them in a closet somewhere in my head, then vow to do the best I can and keep moving. A couple of weeks ago I found myself snapping at people who are not from the community sharing their non-informed opinions about Oxford and the situation. I don’t snap at people, so I knew I needed to get my head turned on straight. I cannot imagine being closer to those killed and harmed and trying to deal, let alone heal. I don’t know how those who are closer can heal. I pray they are healing. They are in my thoughts and in my heart daily. If I could I would reach my arms wide and wrap them around the entire community in a healing embrace.

Oxford is a community I have much fondness for and so while this is the time of year many (like me) start feeling all jolly and lovey-dovey, maybe it is a time we step back and reflect first before speaking.

I love the holiday season, Thanksgiving through New Year. I like the music, the lights, the sentiments — the whole shi-bang. I want to go out and shake hands, give hugs and smiles and spread love and joy. However, I think I need to hold back on all this holly, jolly, folly to remember this time of year will not be as fun for some as it is for most of us. The holidays are a time when some feel alone and abandoned. It can be a time of great loss and grief. It can be a time of great sadness and pain. Have empathy. If you think someone should be feeling as wonderful as you, stop. They may be going through something you know nothing of. Be kind, be of good will, but maybe be more aware of who wants a big cup of good cheer.

* * *

This is the time of the year I also really think about gratitude. I’m not sure enough people like to go down the old gratitude tunnel – maybe they think it’s too much work, or they just think they are due anything and everything just because they exist.

So, what is gratitude? Simply, and by the book, gratitude is a noun. “ . . . the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

. . . and if you do not believe me, sometime when you’re feeling especially magnanimous look it up yourself (and then look up the definition of magnanimous because if you do, you may find it easier to be grateful.)

Yeah. We need more kindness. Less spitting, less animosity and if we all look inward a bit to find something to be grateful for, maybe we’d be less angry.

* * *

November is a great month to get down with your grateful self. Challenge yourself, each day, to find one thing or person you are grateful for. Write it down. Share it. So, what’s there to be grateful for? How about this: Be grateful the General Election is over and not still weeks away. No more hate-filled political commercials and propaganda for another 18 months. Can I get an amen brothers and sisters to the end of political ads on TV and the internet? Hallelujah and praise the sweet baby Jesus.

Thinking about it, it’s kinda’ groovy to think we always have the opportunity, as a nation, to move forward in a positive direction. I don’t know if we can, but we do have the opportunity to, we just need the will.

* * *

If you haven’t done it before, November is also a good time to start doing good deeds for no other reason than you can. Maybe when you go get a coffee, leave an extra $20 to pay for the next three or four people’s cups of joe. Or, bake some cookies for the old couple down the block. Heck, years, and years, and years ago, I just wrote on a bunch of little pieces of paper, “You are loved” and shoved them in random library books. I figured everyone can use a little unexpected “love” bomb once in a while.

Be creative, you’ll feel good inside.

* * *

Just had a thought: What is “kumbaya” anyway? The online Merriam-Webster dictionary states kumbaya is “characterized by or exhibiting a belief in harmony between people and in their essential goodness.” And, now we all know.

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