I have now lost count of the number of rants I’ve heard this year against Christmas newsletters. I read one yesterday suggesting that the portrayals of perfect children make us feel very insecure about our own offspring, and Lynne Truss on Radio 4 has been listing increasingly offensive ripostes which might be sent to discourage the recipient from ever sending another one.
Frankly, I don’t get it. There are people who have been pivotal in my life – childhood friends, university friends, former fellow church members, distant cousins, whose paths no longer cross with mine in daily life. We have settled in different parts of the country or the world and the only news we hear of each other is via the Christmas newsletter.
I can’t imagine the curmudgeonly spirit that finds these missives annoying. Of course they contain only the edited highlights. Well, most of them. I have one friend whose annual letter is a catalogue of woes – ailments, disputes, accidents. The nadir was the year she described the boils on her 20-year old son’s bottom and the measures she was having to take to dress them. But this is the exception. Most people know how much information is too much.
Because I haven’t seen many of these friends over the years, in most cases I’ve never met their children. But I’ve followed their stories, annual episode by annual episode, with genuine interest. I think people are wonderful creatures. I love to hear about them. I welcome the chance to rejoice in someone’s success, even someone I’ve never met. I love that even if a son or daughter hasn’t turned out to be an academic high flyer or an amazing career genius, a parent’s love can still single out things about their life to celebrate.
Most of these children and young adults I wouldn’t recognise if I passed them in the street. But that doesn’t stop me taking a real interest in what they’re doing. C.S. Lewis once said, “There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” He was right. Every human person is an eternal soul with a streak of pure genius in some area of life. I recently met up with some distant cousins at a family funeral. Some of their children I haven’t met since they were very small, some I had never met before. They are all doing amazing things with their lives – a book illustrator, an events organiser, a mother of four, and one is the director of Action for Happiness. Thanks to Christmas newsletters I already knew what they were all doing, and that greatly enhanced my experience of meeting them at last and being able to put faces to the names.
People are wonderful, amazing creatures. The humblest and most obscure of them achieves so much. Even my disabled daughter whose life and possibilities are so limited has a zest for life that many a self-important business executive should envy. I hope that when people read my annual letter they enjoy reading about my children too. Imagine that mother of four. She is raising responsible, caring citizens who will contribute who knows what to this world in the future. How exciting! So please, keep your newsletters coming. I look forward to receiving them, I promise you I read every one, I love to hear your news and they remind me to pray for your families.