In our hearts, in our homes, a special night
December 24, 2010
For all the children who should be loved always, but especially on this wondrous night, with our arms around them and a long goodnight kiss on the temple, a kiss more precious than anything wrapped up in a box.
For all the parents who linger in the doorways of those bedrooms, watching those sleeping shapes.
For all the babies who aren't loved enough and may grow up with a hard crust around their hearts because someone neglected to plant those kisses and give those hugs.
For every couple that adopts a child and saves a life. For all the young mothers who saved the life they carried by giving that child up for adoption.
For all those who've lost their children. For the children who've lost their moms and dads.
And for the crazy uncles who will drink too much, and put on the red suit and dance outside alone in the cold, before sneaking in to surprise the laughing kids. For the wise aunts who make sure the coffee is strong, so the crazy uncles can sober up.
For all the men and women and children of all the church choirs of the world, practicing for months, gathering on weeknights in the empty churches, so that on this night they may carry us with their harmonies.
And for their voices that gently invite us to humble ourselves, so we may ask for help to begin scraping away any bitterness that has taken root.
For all the friends, relatives and neighbors who haven't waited for one night to build what is important. All year they've been building it, and they show up on a Thursday afternoon in June, or on a cool morning in November, just to see if you're OK.
So tonight is theirs, and tomorrow too, because they are family, by friendship and by blood, by the acts of family.
For those who are far away and can't make it home this year. For those who've been distant in other ways, worrying that they've been gone too long, wondering if it is too late to open that door.
But tonight is the night of new hope.
The door is always open.
Just reach for it and see.
For the old guys at the end of the bar, nursing their drinks, half-watching the TV and grateful there is a warm place to sit and hear the laughter.
For the old women alone in their rooms, awake in bed, remembering these nights past and the laughter of children, nights when it wasn't so still, when there was so much to do and a houseful of hungry guests to feed.
For the young parents who are stressed and overwhelmed, with the kids and the bills and the shopping. For the dads and moms who've been out of work, and are desperate for a job and are afraid.
For everyone on the night shift, and those who work tomorrow. For police, firefighters and paramedics who rush into danger to help us. And for the souls of Chicago firefighters Corey Ankum and Edward Stringer, who were killed this week.
For everyone in a hospital praying for dignity and relief without shame or suffering. For the physicians who care for them. For those nurses who enter the room, pull up a chair and listen to quiet confessions.
For those of the clergy who have struggled with belief, yet find it again, and are renewed.
And for every sailor on every ship tonight, especially those on watch on the bridge, looking out into cold black water, remembering brightly lit rooms.
For our young president and his wife and their little girls. For all our leaders. For the members of the U.S. military who protect us with their bodies and their lives. And the members of the intelligence services and the Foreign Service who put themselves at risk for this country. For all their loved ones, waiting for them.
For our great nation that faces difficult days ahead, and for our countrymen who've already faced many difficult days, and see more coming and never quit.
To those of you I've offended with my thoughtless and clumsy words and shrill tone on bad days. I'm sorry.
And for those who've given this column a chance, visiting with me four mornings a week, and those who've written or called or sent e-mail. My wife and I can't ever properly express our thanks. But tonight we'll thank you, once again.
And for everyone who has kept hold of what is truly important about this special night.
It is the message brought by that perfect child born in a manger in Bethlehem, the child who came to light the world.
He is the gift.
And it is all about love.
So I hope that it comes to you, and comforts you, and remains.
From my wife, Betty, and our boys, from my mother and my brothers and their wives and children, from all of us to all of you and yours.
Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune