Remembering the Christmas Spirit

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

I have a confession to make: My favorite holiday of the year is Christmas. I don’t care what anyone else says, I love Christmas. I love the decorations, I love the snow, I love the festivity, I love the Christmas food, and yes, I do love the gifts. But there are two things I love the most about Christmas. One of them is the Christmas stories. Everyone has a few favorites that they remember at Christmas time. Mine is a short story by Leo Tolstoy called “Where Love is, there God is also.” And in the spirit of generosity, I thought I’d share a summary of this short story with you. If you’d like to read it for yourself, you can click on this link here: http://thriceholy.net/Texts/Tolstoy.html.

Tolstoy’s short story focuses on a shoemaker named Martin Avdeich. He was a good man, but in his old age he had lost hope and the will to live. One night, God visits him in a dream and promises that he would visit Avdeich’s home. Excited by the prospect of having God as his honored guest, Avdeich waits for him anxiously, ready to be a gracious host. While waiting, he comes across a few people just outside his home. The first is an old man whose strength waned before he could finish shoveling. The second is a penniless widow with her child. And the third is an old woman and a boy caught in a scuffle when the boy tries to steal one of her apples. In all three situations, Avdeich responds with compassion and mercy. He invites the old sweeper into his home to get warm, feeds and clothes the mother and her baby, and settles the argument between the boy and the old woman, helping them form a friendship.

By the end of the day, Avdeich has not had the chance to play host for God, and he feels cheated as a result. Avdeich has another dream that night of talking to God—this time, God shows him all the people he had helped that day, and tells Avdeich through Matthew 25 “I was hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in…inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

I share this because, in spite of the goodness of Christmas, December is no stranger to turmoil. Black Friday alone has been more trouble than it’s worth, but it’s not the only harsh part of Christmas. Just a few years ago, many children—and some of their teachers—lost their lives in their own school. Across America, we’re still reacting to the recent decision made in the Ferguson case, and not all of those reactions have been peaceful. And that’s just to name a few.

I said earlier that there were two things about Christmas that I love the most. One of them is the Christmas stories. The other part of Christmas that I love most is the Christmas Spirit, which comes to light in all the stories I mentioned. I share “Where Love is, there God is also” because, in the midst of remembering chaos and sadness, I also want us to remember why we have Christmas in the first place. I want us to remember why we tell stories like Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Leo Tolstoy’s “Where Love is, there God is also.” I want us to remember why we give and receive—and ultimately, which of those actions will bring joy that lasts longer. But most importantly, I want us to remember the sacrifice that God made for us—his own son—and the greatest gift he could ever give, the greatest gift we’ve ever received, and the one gift that no one can take away: his compassion, mercy, and love.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “Happy Holidays”

Photo source: http://crossconnection.hopetv.org/where-love-is-there-god-is-also

Ten Random Facts: A Christmas Carol

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

Welcome to another installment of ‘Ten Random Facts’! In this segment, I take a story and share, as the title implies, ten random facts that not a lot of people know, but would be fun little tidbits to share at parties, family reunions, and other places where humans are required to socialize. And since this is the season of Christmas, I thought I’d partake in the awesomeness of December by sharing trivia on one of my favorite holiday stories, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. So sit back and enjoy as I share ten random facts about the story of a grouchy geezer, the ghosts that come knocking on his door, and of course the spirit of Christmas.

  1. Dickens was the first popular author to read his work in front of an audience, and A Christmas Carol was the first and last of his books that he publicly read.
  2. One of the instances where Dickens publicly read A Christmas Carol was in 1867 when he read in Chicago. That reading not only encouraged one Mr. Fairbanks to close his factory on Christmas Day every year, but also to give all of his employees turkeys for Christmas.
  3. In the book, the Ghost of Christmas Present tells Scrooge that he has over 1800 brothers and sisters. Since A Christmas Carol was written in the 1800s, one could assume that each sibling represents a previous Christmas.
  4. Dickens claimed that he wrote the book in six weeks, and gave credit to Bob Cratchit and his son Tiny Tim, two beloved characters that appear in the book, for helping him write the story.
  5. A Christmas Carol is one of the most popular Christmas stories ever written, boasting dozens of adaptations in theater, movies, television, and more. Disney made at least two Christmas Carol movies (one featuring Mickey Mouse & the gang, the other featuring Jim Carey), and even the Muppets cashed in on it. There are even two graphic novels adapted from A Christmas Carol, one by Dick Matena and the other by Sean Michael Wilson.
  6. Dickens got the idea for the book after the combination of a charity event and a long walk in the night.
  7. Mark Twain was one of the many listeners for whom Dickens read and performed A Christmas Carol. He even wrote a few words about the experience, which can be found in one of the links below.
  8. Dickens finished the book just in time to publish it before Christmas. Once the bookshops first stocked on it, it sold out within three days.
  9. Every adaptation of A Christmas Carol, even the bad ones, made it into the Nostalgia Critic’s Top 12 Christmas Specials, coming in second only to A Christmas Story.
  10. The opening line of the book is “Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.” The closing line is “God bless us, everyone!”

And those are just a few of the many tidbits of trivia surrounding Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Plenty more can be found in the links below, if you’d like to be enlightened. Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “God bless us, everyone!”

Photo source: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/12/22/be-a-scrooge-this-year-reflections-from-a-christmas-carol/

Sources used:

http://www.squizzes.com/a-christmas-carol-fast-facts/

http://mentalfloss.com/article/54245/10-things-you-might-not-know-about-christmas-carol

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptations_of_A_Christmas_Carol#Graphic_novel

http://www.funtrivia.com/en/Literature/A-Christmas-Carol-14720.html

http://www.charlesdickensinfo.com/christmas-carol/trivia/

Stop the Madness

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

A few days ago, I put up a blog post where I touched on my thoughts about the Ferguson case. In that post, I had raised a few questions about racism and touched on the fact that Wilson was one out of a line of cops who hadn’t been convicted for killing someone. But I’m not going to repeat myself here. Because I realize that, given everything that’s happened, that post came most likely at the wrong time.

Today, I want to talk about what’s going on right now. I want to talk about the violence. I want to talk about the protests. I want to talk about another policeman who got to go free after killing another US citizen.

I want to talk about this because it’s turning into a problem.

Allow me to elaborate. In the last century, history and literature gave us examples of when injustice brought people together to fight for justice. History gave us black and white people who banded together to create the Civil Rights Movement. Literature gave us a variety of witches and wizards who fought together against dark wizards who used bigotry to get what they wanted. History gave us a plethora of countries working together to fight Adolf Hitler. Literature gave us thirteen districts who got together to overthrow the corrupt government.

I bring up these examples because injustice has reared its ugly head once again, and this time everyone is pitted against each other. People have bickered amongst themselves about what the real problem is, or even if there was a problem to begin with. People have waged war with anyone who disagreed. People have accused each other of being ignorant, of not caring enough to do something, of being the problem instead of the solution.

The thing is, this isn’t working. We’re getting violent—not just with our actions, but also with our words. This morning, I turned on the news, and the news anchors were getting close to starting another argument about what happened in Ferguson. Even at my alma mater, the place I had called home for four years, the Editor in Chief wrote an article about how everyone has turned on each other (the article can be found here: http://www.calvin.edu/chimes/2014/12/04/letter-to-the-editor-calvin-and-ferguson/ ). Bottom line: it’s getting ugly, and it needs to stop.

Now, let me make one thing clear before anyone has a heart attack and I get a line of comments arguing about what’s happened. Yes, I am angry about what happened in Ferguson. A cop’s job is to protect the citizens of his/her country, not kill them. Whether Michael Brown was guilty of anything or not, he was still a citizen, and he shouldn’t have died. In the last month, the justice system refused to indict two cops who stepped out of line, and that’s not okay. And this does bring up the fact that America still has a long way to go before we can call it a country of equality.

That being said, if we want justice for anyone, and if we want to change our system for the better, then we need to change our tactics. Everyone has gotten physically and verbally violent, and it’s only making everything worse. About a week and a half before the jury came to their decision, the KKK (yes, they’re still out there) sent around fliers threatening action against, as they put it, “terrorists masquerading as ‘peaceful protestors’” (more information on that can be found here: http://www.inquisitr.com/1609144/ku-klux-klan-releases-letter-threatening-lethal-force-against-ferguson-protesters/ ). While I’m sure that none of the protestors are terrorists—at least, I’m hoping that’s the case—using brute force and/or brute language to make ourselves heard only proves that we’re anything but peaceful.

Whether we’re citizens or in the law enforcement, whether we’ve been involved in what’s been happening or not, we all need to change. We need to stop bickering amongst ourselves and start working together to find a solution. We need to stop playing with fire and start listening to each other, no judgment, no stereotypes, and no violence involved. We need to stop the madness.

Photo source: http://www.ibtimes.com/ferguson-protesters-also-mourn-st-louis-shooting-victim-photos-1663296

A Few Thoughts on Ferguson

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

Unless you’ve live without TV, internet access, and newspapers, you probably know that a few months ago, in Ferguson, Missouri, Mike Brown was killed by police officer Darren Wilson. You also probably know that during Thanksgiving week, the courts decided not to indict Wilson for the crime, and there aren’t a lot of people who’ve been openly happy about it. And everyone has weighed in on it in one way or another. I can’t think of anyone by name who didn’t feel outraged by the result, and unfortunately not all of the reactions we’ve had across the country have been peaceful.

Now, I’ve kept my silence on this subject since the court decided not to indict Wilson, for a few reasons.

One, I don’t think there’s anything I can add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said. As I mentioned earlier, everyone has had something to say about it in one way or another. So as frustrated as I am with what’s been going on, there’s nothing I can say that might differ from everyone else’s spoken opinions.

Two, while I do realize that racism is still a problem and it is worth getting angry about, that’s not the only problem with the Ferguson decision. The other problem is that Darren Wilson is only one in a line of cops who has gotten away with murder—which, for anyone else in the country, is bad enough to warrant anything from years in prison to the death penalty. However, even if the government won’t punish Wilson for his actions, it’s pretty clear that nearly everyone else in America wants to. I mean, can you imagine getting out of bed and facing the fact that half the country wants to see you punished for something unspeakably awful that you did? We hire cops so that they can protect American citizens, not kill them. Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that, while racism is a problem, it wasn’t the only problem with the Ferguson case.

And three, the one aspect of the story that people talk about the most is that America is still racist, and it’s still filled to the brim with injustice.

But here are a few questions that I’d like to address: why are we racist? Why are we determined to judge each other and stereotype one another based on what we look like? And if we want to see a positive change, what can we do to make sure it happens?

Let me ask these questions again:

Why are we racist?

Why are we determined to judge each other and stereotype one another based on appearances?

What can we do to change for the better?

Truth be told, I’ve only seen a few people address such questions, and even then, they didn’t claim to have the answers. Unfortunately, I can’t say in all honesty that I can answer these questions, either. I can only speculate like everyone else. But I do have a few guesses, which you’re free to ponder or ignore.

One, we’re imperfect. We’re so prone to sin that it becomes second nature to us, and racism is another one of those things that make us disgusting, sinful creatures.

Two, we’re afraid of what’s different. People respond to changes and differences just like they respond to acne and wrinkles: we can’t handle them. We’re not strong enough to deal with them. So instead of embracing them and admitting that they’re normal, we shy away from them. That doesn’t excuse what we’ve done and what we’re continuing to do to this day, of course: it just means that those are issues that we need to find a way to work out of our systems.

Third, as far as advocating for change goes, it seems like Martin Luther King Jr. was on the right track when he chose to respond with peace and love rather than fire and violence. But that’s the best I’ve got.

Well, I’ve shared my guesses. Now it’s your turn. Why are we racist? Why are we determined to judge each other and stereotype one another based on appearances? What can we do to make a positive change?

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”

Photo Source: http://abcnews.go.com/US/obama-appears-wary-national-guard-ferguson/story?id=25017936