At our elementary school’s Holiday Concert, one kindergartener was completely dressed in a Santa Suit! I couldn’t resist looking totally shocked and saying to him, “Omigosh, I didn’t realize Santa was going to be here!”
He smiled at me, placed his hands on his little padded belly and said quite seriously, “Mr. Boomsma, what would you like for Christmas?” A few hours later I realized how important his question was.
I was at a different event and was introduced to a Christmas Song I’d never heard before. I’m not sure how I missed this song–it was written in 1974 by Greg Lake as a protest against the commercialization of Christmas. The song has an interesting history, but it has an even more interesting closing line:
“We get the Christmas we deserve…”
That’s something to think about. We are, unfortunately, a culture of fault-finders and that makes us often feel victimized. We complain about how commercial Christmas has become… object to the costs and the endless attempts at political correctness. We remember fondly the Christmases of yesteryear and whine, “It’s not like it used to be.”
Lake wrote the song in part because, as he described it, “Christmas was a time of family warmth and love. There was a feeling of forgiveness, acceptance. And I do believe in Father Christmas.”
So maybe we need to focus on what we believe in and then ask ourselves “What am I contributing to the season and what do I want from it?” Once we’ve wrapped our heads (and hearts) around that we can create the activities that contribute to that meaning and focus on those. What do you want for Christmas? How are you going to get it?
Christmas isn’t something that happens to us. We get the Christmas we deserve.
You can learn more about the interesting history of this tune on Wikipedia.
The song suggests, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” and even provides some reasons. “With holiday greetings and gay happy meetings… when friends come to call….”
I’ve found this to be true and almost unconsciously allow more time when I “run into town for a few errands” this time of year. For one thing, there are more people around doing likewise. For another, most–even though busy–are feeling a bit festive and anxious to get and give a handshake, a hug, and a hearty hello.
“There’ll be much mistletoe-ing and hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near…” Well, given the current political environment we may choose to suppress the “mistletoe-ing,” but our hearts do glow when loved ones are near. Much like plugging in the lights on the tree, we seem to get more connected this time of year. That’s a good thing.
But I recently ran into a sobering statistic. A public health survey conducted in 1980 showed that 20% of the people surveyed described themselves as “lonely.” The survey was recently repeated and 40% of the respondents described themselves as “lonely.” So in spite of technology and social media, there’s been a doubling of “loneliness.” How can that be when we live in such an expanded world?
There are those suggesting we are actually losing the ability to connect in a nurturing, meaningful way. There are, it seems, some interesting social trends that deserve our attention. Consider a few:
- online shopping–it’s now possible to do all of our holiday shopping without contact with a human being. Yes, it can be quite efficient and cost-effective. But it also means we don’t “rub elbows” with others… share frustrations, ask others opinions or just occasionally allow someone to go ahead of us in the check out line because they have only one item.
- celebrating occasions–I recently discovered the death of a friend by reading a Facebook Post. There will be no services, but I am invited to post my condolences online in a “memory book.” I find myself wishing I could hug some of the people he has left behind. And, while we weren’t really close, I wouldn’t mind getting a hug back. I liked him and will miss him.
- distracted everything–most people acknowledge the hazards of texting and driving (but do it anyway). But what about distracted visits? Another friend posted a funny-but-not Christmas Photo on Facebook. She and her entire family are sitting on a comfy couch, looking very festive, the obligatory Christmas tree in the background. The caption was something like “A (last name) Family Christmas.” Of course, every member of the family is not looking at the camera… they are looking at their cell phone screens.
Technology has, in one sense, expanded our worlds but with it comes the danger we actually become more isolated. Social media is about big numbers–big numbers of friends and frequent contact. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it’s not very nourishing and nurturing.
Maybe instead of sending emojis and stickers, we make this a wonderful time of the year with some connections that include a warm touch and a look in the eye. It’s a wonderful time of the year to delve into our humanity in addition to our technology.
University of Maine journalism student Kendra Caruso recently joined us for a Suicide Prevention Workshop both to learn about suicide and to gather information for a journalism assignment. We’re pleased she decided to share her work with us!
Preventing Suicides in School–
Highlighting a growing problem prevalent in Maine schools.
by Kendra Caruso
Walter Boomsma is a substitute teacher for the Piscataquis Community Elementary School. He has experienced firsthand the reality of suicide among the adolescent in the state of Maine, it’s why he teaches the Suicide Awareness and Prevention workshop that’s free for the public to attend but required for all school personnel.
LD 609 was enacted into law on April 25, 2013 and requires anyone who works for a school system in the state of Maine to receive comprehensive training on suicide prevention that’s research based, from bus drivers to teachers. Boomsma’s two-hour class meets the state mandate. The course he uses is a collaboration between the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
In Maine suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 34 year olds and 16.14 people die per 100000 residents compared to the national average of 13.26 in 2015 according to the CDC.
Boomsma talks about bullying as one of the leading causes of suicide among adolescents in his workshop and social media has made it easier for bullies to access their victims. Boomsma talks about how to address a suicidal child being bullied. Victims of bullying are two to nine times more likely to be suicidal than people who don’t experience bullying, according to a study by Yale University.
Hailey Cipullo of Abbot is an eighth grader at the Piscataquis Community Elementary School and has been the victim of bullying herself. She never experienced suicidal thoughts but lost a friend she went to a summer camp with to suicide because of bullying. She didn’t even know her friend was experiencing suicidal thoughts. Cipullo doesn’t blame herself for not realizing what her friend was going through. Boomsma teaches not to self-blame for losing someone to suicide.
The LGBTQ community had a much higher risk for suicide ideation, 50 percent of bisexual youth experienced ideation and 25 percent attempted suicide, 40 percent of gay or lesbian youth experienced ideation and 21 percent attempted suicide, according to the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey in 2013. Youth in the LGBTQ community are more likely to become suicidal if they are rejected by family.
Men are more likely to die from suicide but women experience ideation more, for one male attempt there are three female attempts. Men are more likely to kill themselves using violent means where women tend to us less violent acts such as taking pills according to the NAMI and CDC course collaboration.
Native American youth are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts with an average of 17 per 100000 residents compared to 12.1 for the whole US according to the NAMI and CDC course collaboration.
Boomsma experienced the tragedy of suicide first hand when his brother ended his own life but that’s not why he teaches this class. He teaches this class because of the affect suicide has on Maine’s youth.
Boomsma spends a few minutes after class when he gets home and thinks about how he may have trained someone who will save a life, “I think to myself, I may have saved a life tonight.”