What is it about this time of year?
Unless you're in a long line for a got-to-have-it purchase in a store where the temperature has been set by the home office in a state where it must be freezing cold at high noon, you've probably noticed a few more smiles from folks you've met.
Even the most cynical of us can come up with an expression that's more smile than sneer at Christmas. And people, on unexpected occasions, can be just plain nice.
Take the experiences a member of our Editorial Board had last week. Some cash left carelessly in the cupholder on the console of a car left at an Albany auto service center was gone when the car was picked up. The technician had spotted it and thoughtfully placed it in the covered CD pocket, where it wouldn't be in plain sight. In the morning drive-through at a local fast-food restaurant, he found that the driver of the SUV ahead of him had already paid for his breakfast sandwich. And no doubt there are other instances just as unexpected and just as pleasant going on both in our area and in other parts of the country.
There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part Christmastime seems to put a little extra spring in the step, a bit more curl in the smile, a touch more twinkle in the eye.
There's more of an appetite for stories and movies that leave you feeling good. Those aren't the sorts of things that are going to win literature awards or Oscars, but we imagine quite a few critics wipe a tear from their eye so that they can see well enough to write a scathing review about this saccharine plot or that hokey ending, thereby protecting their credentials as legitimate critics.
It reminds of us the Paul McCartney song about criticism of his "silly love songs." "What's wrong with that?" he asks.
Indeed, what is wrong with having a good feeling, if just for a short while?
Bad things happen all the time. They have happened this year, most recently the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. More bad things will happen in the future, though we certainly hope that the elementary school shootings were an aberration that will never be repeated.
And when bad things happen, we will endure them, and eventually we will move forward as best we can with our lives.
But if we can steal away a few more precious hours for friends and family, a time when we greet each other a bit more heartily, a period when we find good humor is easier to attain, a season when charity is more prominent in our thoughts, what is wrong with that?
We're reminded of the words written so long ago by Charles Dickens in his classic tale, "A Christmas Carol." Ebenezer Scrooge has rebuffed the dinner invitation extended by his estranged nephew, Fred, and asks him what Christmas is other than a time to overspend and be frivolous. Fred replies:
"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say. Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come around — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe it has done me good, and will do me good; and I day, God bless it!"
I would be nice if this Christmas spirit would remain in our hearts year round. But until that happens, we're happy to take it when we can get it.