As we go through this Christmas season, we are bombarded with messages, telling us to check on others, because they might be blue or so depressed that they are suicidal or at some level of sadness in between. We are told to look for the signs. Give them a hotline number. Refer them to counseling. Tell them that Jesus loves them and then we move on to our own Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

The message I have never heard, and it occurred to me last week, is, we are never admonished to look inwardly to ask, if, by any chance, we have played some role in another person’s blues. Sometimes it could be something so seemingly minor as to take others’ support of us for granted by failing to acknowledge their contributions to our success or by saying thank you for the kind gestures of support. Our contribution to another person’s blues could be directly through some relationship issue, mistreatment, etc.

Or it could be that we have observed mistreatment or some other injustice or seemingly minor infraction and decided not to get involved, or even call or drop a note to see if the person is OK, or to lend a listening ear.

In the worst of all cases, someone has told us we hurt them and we continue the behavior that they told us hurt them because they hurt us first. Or, God forbid, we derive some selfish pleasure from inflicting emotional pain. It may not do us any good; but, boy, it sure felt good to inflict that pain! After all, they didn’t know who they were messin’ with! Our pride often gets the better of us.

Not too far behind pride is rugged individualism that tells us to look out for ourselves and let others do the same. As our society becomes more and more individualistic, indifference is on the rise. It is indifference or lack of empathy — and not hate — that is the polar opposite of love.

All one has to do to look around and see that indifference can be just as bad, if not worse, than hate. Look at the crime that has been allowed to proliferate in our neighborhoods or the fact that Illinois is going without a budget for going on three years, and you know what I’m talking about.

As I continue my own spiritual journey, I want to love more. I will be more mindful of how I treat others and how my lack of action affects them. I will say ‘thank you’ more often. I will listen more carefully. I will be more present.

In closing, I thank you for taking the time to read my note. I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas holiday and a Happy New Year.

— Valerie Leonard, North Lawndale

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