Today was the last school day before Christmas vacation. During my classes yesterday afternoon and today, I wished my students a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Yule, and a Happy Kwanzaa, Festivus, Saturnalia, Feast of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and a restful vacation. And then I addressed the rest of the class.
In each class, I said some version of: “I know that for some of you, spending a week with your family will be stressful, and perhaps not a pleasant prospect.” (Now I had the undivided attention of the two or three students who had been averting their eyes during the “Happy Holidays” message.) “If you’re one of these students, (one student looked away, but not before I noticed her “I’m glad somebody noticed” expression; the other subtly pointed to herself, making sure I noticed) I’d like to wish you huge amounts of cope. You’re the ones I’ll be particularly thinking of this week, and I hope when we get back to school in January that you’ll be doing at least as well as you are now.”
Toward the end of each class, when we had finished the day’s activity and my students were chattering away excitedly in those last minutes before the bell, I approached each of the kids who had subtly signaled to me that my holiday stress message could have been addressed directly to them. I told each one personally that I’d be thinking about them and that I hoped things wouldn’t be too bad. One student said, “It will be OK. I’m working Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day after, so I’ll mostly be out of the house.”
When we hear the Christmas homily in church, asking us to remember those less fortunate than ourselves, we often think of people in poor health or living in poverty. It would serve us well to also remember people who might be “less fortunate” in other ways. One of them could even be the teenager working behind the counter at the store where you just finished your last-minute Christmas shopping.