What have you done?

FI-EditorialOne of the best known Christmas songs was composed by John Lennon, and it starts off, as was typical for him, with a challenge. “So this is Christmas. And what have you done?”

When it came to music, Lennon was not only a brilliant lyricist but a rather cynical person as well, especially at that time in his life. He despised phoniness and could sometimes be a bit of a jerk (to put it mildly). So it should be no surprise that he created a song about as far from the tone of Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole as he could. He basically says in the beginning of the song, “Yeah, so it’s Christmas. What have you done to make the world a better place?”

And it’s a great question as 2014 is ending and 2015, believe it or not, is about to begin. What have we done to make the world a better place? Big, bold gestures of change get the headlines, but it’s the little things that happen in concert that actually move a society forward. How many of those little gestures did you make? And it’s not just about producing positive social change (though it’s great when you can) but also about small acts of human kindness that make people feel better about themselves and others.

It’s great when people talk about “paying it forward” or “one random act of kindness a day,” but it’s even better when those words are actually backed up by action. There’s a lot of focus on this because it’s Christmas and people are filled with holiday cheer and a desire to be good and also because that new year looms full of positive resolutions for 2015. So let’s not lose this feeling as soon as the mid-January malaise sets in. Keep it going past Christmas, past New Year’s and let’s make it the theme of 2015.

Lest anyone think that John Lennon was entirely lost to cynicism, he filled his now classic holiday song, known as Merry Christmas (War Is Over), with a lot of hope. Because he says, “War is over if you want it” in the song. Now, he meant this literally, as the song was a response to the ongoing Vietnam War at the time, but it’s also true in a broader sense, as he also intended. We act in conflict because we choose to. If people wanted to put an end to discord, that could be accomplished. But we are our own roadblocks.

None of this is going to magically happen over the last week of the year. Nor is 2015 likely to be a year of positive upheaval and a stronger, more cohesive society. But when little steps are taken to make the world a better place, then another one can be taken after that and then another one. We see it all the time in Greenwich. This week’s Post is full of articles about people who are doing good things for others. And it’s not just this week. It’s easy to make the claim that you see this every week.

So when we spend our Christmas with our families, the ones we love or perhaps curled up with a good book and some peace and quiet, remember the questions posed in what has become just as much a holiday standard as Frosty the Snowman. So this is Christmas and what have you done?

We can always do more, and it’s on us to go out and actually do it.

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