By Newport Beach Councilmember and Former Mayor Will O’Neill
Saturday Night Live produced a segment this week sending up a mom’s Christmas morning. While her family bragged about gift after gift, the caricatured mom tried to grin through her one gift – an on-sale robe – and an empty stocking put up for decorating purposes only. Hopefully dads have seen this sketch and step up this year!
As any good comedian will tell us, every joke has some truth in it. And the truth of that sketch was to appreciate the gift of family more than the physical gifts under the tree or the attempted perfect Christmas morning.
Not only is there a spiritual element to our connectiveness, research published recently shows that we literally crave social contact As an article in Popular Science explained, “these cravings are driven by the same circuitry as addiction, the difference being that the latter is essentially a harmful biological and psychological attachment to a drug rather than a person.”
This biological circuitry may well help explain both the joys of being with family and the grief associated with losing a family member too. Any psychiatrist, hospital worker, or police officer can tell you that the highs are higher and the lows are lower during this holiday season.
And in a year like we have had, those lows really can bottom out. For some of us – including my family – we will have an empty spot around the tree this year. My dad has described losing someone close as having your back to the ocean. You can’t see the waves coming, and you may find a calm patch, but then a wave hits you. The Christmas holiday has the ability to bring on bigger waves.
For some – perhaps many – of you, this message will slip by because you’re in the midst of present opening and the second round of watching Ralphie nearly shoot his eye out.
For some, though, this message will resonate. And it is to you that I’ve written this message of peace, hope, and inclusiveness. There may be a moment today where you feel alone. You aren’t. There may be a moment today where you feel like your pain is unique. Let me assure you clearly that you are unique, but your pain is not. People genuinely love you and are looking forward to celebrating a new year and beyond with you. We are a connected people who crave social contact.
From the O’Neill Family to you and yours, Merry Christmas!